Learn how to use essential oils for healing in your home with our helpful guide.
To find out more about essential oils and their uses for healing, we chatted to Sue Pugh, co-owner of Still Pure, which produces essential oils and natural, botanical products.
How are essential oils made?
Essential oils are most commonly made by putting plant material through a steam distillation process. The end result is pure essential oil and water (hydrosol), which carries some of the water-soluble components of the essential oil and can be used for various applications.
Sue explains that the parts of plants used in this process vary. ‘In some cases, the whole plant is used, as with rosemary. Sometimes only the flowers are used, as with jasmine; and sometimes only the leaves, for example with
lemongrass. Roots only are used in vetiver; only the wood is used in sandalwood, and we use the resin only with myrrh.
‘Different oils can also be made using various parts of the same plant,’ says Sue. ‘For example, some species of orange trees will give you bitter orange essential oil, which is pressed from the fruit rinds; neroli is distilled from the blossoms, and petitgrain from the stems and leaves.’
Benefits of natural products
According to Sue, generally, essential oils shouldn’t be used on their own for the treatment of any serious physical or psychological illnesses. It’s recommended they’re used in conjunction with other treatments, as diagnosed by a medical professional skilled in alternative medicine. ‘Essential oils are best used to maintain wellness rather than as a cure once a problem has already set in,’ she explains.
That being said, they have many benefits when used safely for basic healing and in the home. They’re special in that they can easily penetrate your skin and enter your bloodstream by simply being diluted in a carrier oil and massaged onto your skin, or by adding a few drops to your bath water. ‘From there, they’ll help both physical and emotional ailments, without upsetting the holistic wellbeing of body, mind, and spirit,’ says Sue.
Each essential oil has specific properties and can help treat specific conditions. ‘For years, scientific evidence has acknowledged that essential oils are capable of antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and anti-inflammatory results,’ she says. ‘They boost the immune system and assist with hormonal, glandular, and circulatory imbalances, and also
relax and uplift emotions. Essential oils, unlike many man-made chemical drugs, can do all this without upsetting the balance of the rest of the body.’
What’s a carrier oil?
Carrier oils are naturally derived from the fattiest part of vegetables, seeds, kernels, or nuts. They range in colour from almost clear to dark, and have a neutral smell. As their name suggests, they carry the oil onto your skin by diluting essential and other oils so they’re safe to use. If you apply undiluted essential oils to your skin, you could
experience irritation, redness, or burning.
5 popular carrier oils
- Sweet almond
How to heal with essential oils
Sue believes that, as a society, and especially in the west, we’ve fallen into the bad habit of only taking notice of our health when it begins to fail rather than making an ongoing effort every day to maintain good physical and mental health. ‘Similarly, we tend to look at curing symptoms rather than looking at ourselves holistically and treating the root cause of the symptoms we experience,’ she says. We put together a list of common symptoms and ailments that most people struggle with and asked Sue for advice on the best methods for treating them using essential oils.
‘Headaches can be caused by a number of things,’ she says. ‘Taking a painkiller might alleviate the pain for a while, but it doesn’t treat the root cause of the headache, so chances are the headaches will persist.’
Sue highlights the importance of delving deeper and finding the root cause of your headache before trying to treat it:
- ‘If your headache is caused by muscular tension in your neck, it can be treated effectively with a lavender
oil massage. Along with relaxing the muscles, the lavender oil also calms you mentally and emotionally.’
- ‘Headaches caused by hormonal shifts in women can be successfully treated with rose geranium oil.’
- ‘Headaches caused by eye strain from fatigue can be treated with peppermint and rosemary oils diluted with carrier oil, and massaged into your temples and across your forehead.’
Sue suggests inhaling a combination of eucalyptus and peppermint oil to relieve sinus issues. ‘A few drops in a warm bath will usually do the trick, but for acute sinus problems, add a few drops of essential oil to a bowl of hot water, and cover your head and the bowl with a towel while you inhale the steam,’ she says.
‘Insect bites can be soothed using a few different oils. Lavender oil is usually the first choice because it’s one of only
a handful of pure essential oils that can be used on the skin in small amounts without having to be diluted with
a carrier oil first.’
She advises that a drop of lavender oil on a mosquito bite will calm the itching, reduce the inflammation, and disinfect the bite. ‘Tea tree oil is another favourite for soothing insect bites,’ she says.
‘The release of histamine in the body is believed to be one of the most common causes of asthma attacks,’ Sue says. ‘Peppermint oil is thought to act as an antihistamine and also helps to decongest airways. Lavender, tea tree, and
eucalyptus oils all have anti-inflammatory properties that help ease asthma and the urge to cough. Using these oils throughout your home helps clear the air of impurities and potential allergens.’
Essential oils for your home
Essential oils can be used throughout your home to create different moods in each room. Sue suggests some combinations and scents:
Bedroom: Create a sense of calm with scents like lavender and chamomile.
Home office and study: Increase your ability to focus with lemon and rosemary.
Entrance hall or craft space: Give yourself an energy boost with peppermint and bergamot.
Kitchen and living area: Keep these areas smelling fresh and vibrant with scents like lemongrass and grapefruit.
Use with caution
Although essential oils are natural, Sue warns that they’re very potent and, therefore, potentially dangerous if used incorrectly. ‘It’s unlikely that you’ll experience a negative reaction to an oil if you’re using it correctly, but if you have sensitive skin, there are some oils you may not be able to use,’ she advises. ‘For this reason, if you have an allergic reaction to any oils, seek professional advice from a qualified aromatherapist or medical practitioner who practises alternative healing.’
FEATURE: CANDICE CURTIS PHOTOS: FOTOLIA.COM | Always consult your medical practitioner before treating yourself or your family with natural home remedies.