Aromatherapy, also known as essential oil therapy can have a very positive and uplifting effect on both the mind & the body. It involves the use of essential oils, which are the aromatic parts of a plant (flower, fruit or seed). Essential oils are what provide the plant with their distinct scent. A large amount of plant matter is usually required to obtain a small amount of essential oil, which is why they can be so costly. Essential oils can be used aromatically and/or topically but not internally. Essential oils are fat-soluble, meaning they mix well with oils and can be absorbed through the skin for topical use.
Here are some methods that can be used to increase their absorption through skin:
- Increasing the length of time the essential oil is on your skin
- Heating the essential oil prior to use and
- Increasing the surface area of the oil
There are many different essential oils with distinct properties and purposes. They can support sleep, mood fluctuations, cognitive function, immune support, gastrointestinal support and many more. Rest assured there are oils that support every system in your body. Below, I talk about 5 of my favourite essential oils that are great to have stocked away!
1. LAVENDER OIL
Lavender essential oil is literally the most diverse oil you can have at home!
Lavender Oil Can Be Used For:
- Calming an overactive mind
- Enhancing tranquillity
- Managing stress levels
- Postpartum depression
- Nausea and IBS
How to use Lavender Oil:
For sleep, anxiety and calming the mind apply a couple drops on your pillows, wrists and/or your temples. You can also apply 5-6 drops in a warm bath before bed. For migraines, apply a couple drops to your temples. For dysmenorrhea, massage the lavender oil alone or in a carrier oil (olive, grapeseed or coconut) around your abdominal area. For Nausea and IBS symptoms, apply a few drops of lavender on a thin washcloth and inhale.
2. CHAMOMILE OIL (GERMAN)
Chamomile is extracted from the flowers of the chamomile plant. It has properties very similar to lavender essential oil.
Chamomile oil can be used for:
- Leg cramps
- Digestive complaints like bloating, constipation, gas and nausea
- Calming of the mind due to irritability or anger
- Stress relief
- Respiratory tract infections
How to use chamomile oil:
For insomnia, calming of the mind and stress relief it is used just like lavender – apply a couple drops to your wrists, pillows and bed sheets. Alternatively, you can apply 3-5 drops in a diffuser with water. Have this running about 30 minutes before bed and throughout the night. For digestive symptoms apply a few drops of chamomile on a thin washcloth and inhale.
3. PEPPERMINT OIL
Peppermint is a hybrid between spearmint and watermint. It is the most versatile essential oil in the world along with lavender. It provides a cooling sensation when applied topically.
Peppermint Oil can be used for:
- Upper Respiratory Infections (coughs, colds)
- Reducing spasms and releasing tight muscles
- Improving mental focus
How to use peppermint oil:
For upper respiratory infections apply 3-4 drops of peppermint oil to a bowl of steaming water. Put a towel over both your head and the bowl. Then, breathe in the steam for about 5-7 minutes. For migraines and mental focus apply the oil directly to your temples. For tight muscles apply 3 drops of peppermint oil into base oil like avocado oil and rub into sore muscles to help relieve the pain.
4. EUCALYPTUS OIL
The Eucalyptus tree is an evergreen tree native to Australia. The essential oil is extracted from the eucalyptus leaves.
Eucalyptus Oil can be used for:
- Upper Respiratory tract infections
- Relieving aching joints and muscles
- Clearing sinuses and expelling mucus
- Supporting the immune system
- Enhancing focus and concentration
How to use Eucalyptus Oil:
For upper respiratory infections apply 3-4 drops of eucalyptus alone or in combination with peppermint oil to a bowl of steaming water. Put a towel over your head and the bowl. Breathe the steam in deeply for about 5-7 minutes. You can also add 3-4 drops of eucalyptus oil to a humidifier to help clear a chest infection or a cough. For relieving joint and muscle pain apply 3 drops of eucalyptus oil on its own or with peppermint oil into base oil like avocado oil and rub into sore muscles to help relieve the pain. For focus, energy and concentration apply 2-3 drops in a carrier oil and apply it to your wrists and temples. Keep it on for as long as you like.
5. TEA TREE OIL
Tea Tree oil is a yellow coloured oil that is very well known for its antiseptic properties.
Tea Tree Oil can be used for:
- Nail fungus
- As an antiseptic
How to use Tea Tree:
For a fungal infection add 3 drops of tea tree oil with 1 tablespoon of carrier oil like olive or avocado and apply to nails. Be sure to do a patch test first for sensitive skin. For dandruff add 3-4 drops to your shampoo and lather. For acne, you can make a topical wash. For a 1-cup infusion (boil 1 cup of water) add 5 grams of Calendula and 5 drops of Tea Tree oil. Let this steep for about 60 minutes. Once it is cool apply topically using a clean cloth.
It is great to have these essential oils at home to use on demand. They come in super handy, in situations like stress, lack of sleep and colds! Essential oils are highly concentrated and should only be used internally in limited circumstances. Do not use if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Written by: Dr. Saira Kassam | 2018
The advice in this article is for informational purposes only. It does not replace the care of a Naturopathic physician.