Using Essential Oils on the Homestead
February 15, 2021
My love and study of gardening truly affects all areas of our life. Our food, business, healthcare, pet care, personal hygiene and cleaning, all, in some manner, incorporate plants. From cooking our homegrown produce to making our own herbal teas to treat ailments, we always try to use organic options instead of highly processed ones. A favorite way I use botanicals in our daily life is working with essential oils.
When I was in my twenties, I spent a few months studying and getting certified in aromatherapy. Since then, I have used essential oils in a myriad of ways. My love of working with pure oils has continued to grow the more I've learned over the years. Essential oils are compounds extracted from plants, trees and flowers. The oil is the “essence” of the plant from which it was removed. By using either distillation or cold press methods, raw materials (leaves, seed, bark, flowers, roots) are reduced to pure oils. The end results are highly potent liquids that have medicinal, therapeutic and disinfecting qualities. Since numerous people have asked me my suggestions on which oils serve which purposes, I thought a quick post introducing some of my favorites would be helpful.
When buying the oils remember the most important thing is the purity of the product. There are a number of excellent companies that sell oils of the highest quality. To be sure of what you are purchasing always look at ingredients. The bottle should only contain the extract. If there are any additives at all, do not buy it. Only the purest quality oils achieve the best results. My favorite companies to order from are Young Living Essential Oils and Rocky Mountain Oils. Both are highly reputable and have a superb assortment from which to choose. The other item you will need for application is a good carrier oil. This can be any one of a number of natural oils that make a good base for you to apply the essential oil. Essentials are very strong and need to be mixed in a carrier oil when they are used in skin treatments, massage, cosmetics or in the bath. The carrier oil can be any one of a number of items. For example, coconut oil works beautifully for massage, jojoba oil (my personal favorite) works best for skin and bath. But the list is quite long. Some of the most popular include: coconut, jojoba, olive, argan, sweet almond, avocado, grapeseed, rosehip and sunflower. Depending on what your goal is, there is an oil to match. All the ones I just listed can be used in cream, soap, bath or massage. Other solutions that oils can be mixed with include alcohol (for sterilization), vinegar or witch hazel (for cleaning) and water (for humidifiers).
The chemicals in essential oils effect our bodies in specific ways. That's what makes them both medicinal and therapeutic. They can easily be worked into the skin and absorbed. They can relieve muscle cramps and stiffness and even treat certain infections. Inhalation is the most common way to work with essentials. The aromas have a great influence on our limbic system. The limbic system activates the part our brain that controls sense of smell, memory and behavior. It also effects breathing, heart rate and blood pressure. They can reduce anxiety, relieve headaches and reduce cortisol levels. Respiratory illnesses can be greatly soothed by simply breathing in the aromas. What an easy, natural way to ease discomfort!
So, to begin, a good starter collection should include the following: lavender, peppermint, tea tree, eucalyptus, lemon, rosemary and chamomile. I would add also add bergamot, ginger and thyme, as I find them useful for many purposes. To relieve stress and anxiety, lavender is unbeatable. It is excellent added to bath, massage, and diffusers. It is outstanding for calming irritable babies. I swore by it when my children were infants. Two drops in a gentle carrier oil can be lightly massaged (avoid face and genitals) on a crying baby to induce sleep. Eucalyptus is exceptional when treating respiratory ailments and ginger is my choice for muscle cramps and pain. Many oils have antiseptic qualities and are excellent for soaps and cleaning solutions. Tea tree, for example, is an outstanding antibacterial and anti-microbial oil. It can be used to make your own fungicide, cleaning products and hand sanitizer.
A blend of tea tree, citronella and mint makes a great insect repellent. I also use blends to treat our dogs, especially in summer, when ticks are so prevalent.
Below is a list of the most common properties of the oils in a starter kit. I hope it inspires you to try something different. The rewards of working with essential oils are great and the aromas they bring to your home and life are not to be equaled. So, inhale deeply and begin...
Peppermint: uses headache, toothache, colds, cleaning, antidepressant, antiseptic properties
Chamomile: uses included insomnia, headaches, anxiety...it has good anti-inflammatory properties
Tea Tree: anti-bacterial, anti-fungi, anti-viral...it has immuno stimulant properties
Lavender: one of the most versatile oils...sedative, antidepressant, antiseptic properties
Bergamot: uses skin and respiratory ailments, perfumes and cosmetics....
Lemon: one of the best for making cleaning supplies...antiseptic properties
Ginger: uses arthritis, muscular, digestive ailments...antispasmodic, stimulant properties
Eucalyptus: uses cold and respiratory ailments...expectorant and antiviral properties
Rosemary: uses muscular, skin rheumatic ailments...stimulant properties
Thyme: uses skin, joints, circulation ailments...antispasmodic, astringent, stimulant properties
1 ounce aloe vera
3 ounces alcohol
30 drops tea tree oil
5 drops lavender
mix together and use!