I started getting into essential oils sometime last year. And they quickly had the effect on me they’ve had on countless others: Instant. Obsession. To me, these little bottles of pure plant essences, with their intoxicating scents, are like treasure. And like a treasure-hunter, I quickly started a collection – at first buying a cheap set of from Amazon (shhh! don’t tell), then upgrading to high-quality oils from doTERRA.
I defy anyone not to open a bottle of wild orange or rose oil, inhale and not go, ‘Wow!’ Painstakingly extracted from the roots, leaves, petals or skin of plants and fruits, an essential oil is, as the name suggests, the very ‘essence’ of the plant, and with it its unique physical, emotional therapeutic properties.
I love the idea that, as humans, we share our earth with plants that have the potential to treat our illnesses and enhance our lives.
And we’ve been taking advantage of it for eons. Egyptians used aromatic oils to embalm their pharaohs an treat depression, the Babylonians built temples with oil-infused mortar and Hippocrates prescribed oils for health.
You already use essential oils without even knowing it. They’re in your beauty products, in some medicines and even in good-quality cleaning materials. The question is, how do you use them on purpose? This was one of my first questions on my ongoing and ever-deepening journey into essential oils. They clearly smell incredible, but how do we actually reap their myriad and diverse benefits?
Below you’ll find five easy ways to get started with essential oils, along with some oil recommendations for each use.
This was my route into oil magic. I’ve always had a loathing for conventional air fresheners. Loaded with man-made chemicals, including formaldehyde, phthalates and volatile organic compounds, some of which have health, um…implications, they give me headaches. So I was made up when I was gifted an oil diffuser for Christmas. Different diffusers work in different ways, either by atomising, vibrating or evaporating the oil into your environment. Mine has a little well you fill with cold water – you add a few drops of oil and it produces a beautiful scented mist. And the best thing? You get to be creative and mix your oils.
Try this: Put three drops of sage and three drops of lemon in your diffuser to give your home an aromatic spring clean.
Bathe in them
I recently ran a workshop in which an attendee said that the quickest way to wind down after a hard day was with a glass of wine. Here’s something healthier, much more effective and hangover free: run a hot bath, add half a cup of epsom salts (brilliant for tension release and detoxification) and few drops of relaxing essential oils. Then soak for half an hour. I get the majority of my reading and boxset-watching done in the bath. Is there nothing they’re not good for?!
Try this: Run your bath, add your epsom salts (or pure sea salt or Himalayan salt) while the water is on. When full, add five drops of lavender (relaxing and sleep inducing) and two of rose (calming, uplifting, good for tension, nerves and skin health). Mix and submerge. To help the scent – and benefits – last longer, mix the oils with a tablespoon of olive or almond oil first.
I’m serious. But only with extremely pure oils. Because of the labour involved in extracting oils from their plant home, or the sheer volume of raw material required to produce tiny amounts of oil (60,000 blossoms are needed for 1 ounce of rose oil!), pure essential oils are precious and often costly, depending on the oil. Fakes, and those diluted with vegetable oils, however, are not. And it goes without saying that these are not the kind you can or would want to put in your body. DoTERRA oils are unusual in that they are safe to take internally. A couple of drops of lemon oil in warm water makes for a perfect wake up drink (especially if you’re travelling and don’t have access to fresh lemons), and homemade raw chocolate with lemon, lime, wild orange, ginger or peppermint is really special, not to mention easy. No zesting needed!
Try this: Melt 1 cup of cocoa butter or coconut oil in a bowl over a saucepan of water. When melted, add 1 cup of raw cacao (not cocoa – nothing nutritious about cocoa), 2–3 tablespoons of raw honey and a couple of drops of oil to taste (the amount will vary depending on the oil). Pour into trays or moulds, refrigerate and devour. Not before bed though – raw chocolate is a crazy stimulant.
Just a dab of essential oil on pulse points or the soles of your feet (where they get absorbed into the body quickly) is an easy mood manager. That’s another thing I love about EOs: their power to instantly calm nerves, lift spirits and deliver countless other psychological benefits. As a public speaker, they’re my best friend. Blends are great for this, bringing several therapeutic oils together. Another thing I do is skip traditional body moisturiser in favour of a palm-full of almond or coconut oil and a couple of drops of essential oil, depending on my mood and the time of day. Even though I always strive to use body moisturisers that are as natural as possible, something about using pure oils feels very, well, pure.
Try this: A drop of doTERRA Serenity into palms of hands and inhale throughout the day to reduce anxiety or Elevation any time you need a boost of energy.
Heal with them
Essential oils were our first medicines. Pure, powerful, and free from side-effects, it makes so much sense to me to use an oil if I can before reaching for a drug. Lavender oil, for instance, is an incredible anti-burn agent – reducing blistering and scarring. Peppermint oil eases stomach cramps and fever. Melaleuca (commonly known as tea tree oil) is a potent antiseptic, ideal for spots, cuts and grazes. Oregano oil is known as nature’s antibiotic. And when my yoga friend Maria recently arrived to stay with us with a case of raging flu, I had her face down over a bowl of hot water and eucalyptus oil as a natural decongestant. Worked a treat.
Try this: Next time you have a sore throat, add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with 1 tablespoon of raw honey and one drop of lemon essential oil to a glass of warm water and drink. Seriously, who needs lozenges?
Bonus use: Do yoga with them
I very rarely do my self-practice without some oils bubbling away in the diffuser. In Forrest Yoga we often cleanse the space by burning sage (it’s called smudging), but it’s a faff and I can never keep the damn stuff lit, so I cheat with sage essential oil. Forrest classes also work around a specific intent, and I’ve found that EOs are a wonderful accompaniment to that. Grounding, uplifting, working with a spot in the body, breathing deeply – there are oils for everything. For me, using oils when I practice enhances the ritual element; they help create a space in which everything feels more resonant, more sacred.
So here’s some exciting news: I’m finally starting to introduce essential oils into my Forrest Yoga classes and workshops. The first is on Saturday April 22nd, 2.30–5.30pm at Inspire Hot Yoga in Maidenhead, where we’ll be using uplifting and confidence-enhancing blends to support arm balances and inversions. You can book that here.
And now I’d love to hear from you. Do you have a favourite way to use essential oils everyone should know about? Put it in the comments below. And if you’d like to know more about oils and how you can start using them, just ping me a message.