Essential oils have gained popularity over the past few years, with many people finding benefits to their emotional wellbeing.
Autumn is the perfect time to prepare for the cooler months ahead, so we talk with Bronwyn Lowe, medical herbalist and CHS store owner, about essential oils and how they can help with healthy living.
In times of physical or emotional needs, people are becoming more inclined to reach for essential oils in their search for a remedy or relief. In fact, it’s been said that essential oils are the complete ‘materia medica’ for the mind, mood and emotions.
Autumn is the perfect time to prepare for the cooler months ahead, so we talk with Bronwyn Lowe, medical herbalist and store owner, about essential oils and how they help with healthy living.
“When people think of essential oils and aromatherapy, they instantly think of destressing and calming,” says Bronwyn. “Essential oils have gained popularity over the past few years, and many people are finding benefits to their emotional wellbeing by using essential oils externally.”
The ancient art form of aromatherapy has been used by all the great civilisations of the world, including the Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Chinese and Indian. Hippocrates, the ‘Father of Medicine’ (460BC), recommended aromatic baths and scented massage to enhance and prolong life.
Alongside traditional wisdom, there is ongoing scientific research and development in aromatherapy. We can see images showing the aroma molecule working on the brain. Powerful aroma molecules via the olfactory bulb gain immediate access to our mind, mood and emotion. In the quest for a more natural approach to their lifestyle, people are also using essential oils for natural home cleaning products and skincare.
Counting on quality
There’s a lot of misleading information surrounding essential oils and their quality, so Bronwyn suggests researching brands and companies,
so you know you’re purchasing from a reputable source. She recommends making sure:
- The oils are organic
- The oils are sustainably sourced
- The oils are fair trade
- The oils are of medical quality.
“When you purchase certified organic oils, you can have peace of mind that your oil is pure and free from chemicals,” says Bronwyn. “It’s also important to make sure the essential oil is 100 per cent pure and undiluted.”
Enjoying your essential oils
There are many ways to enjoy essential oils, depending on your needs and personal preferences.
Skin – Essential oils are diluted and used on the skin in carrier oils, creams, lotions, body washes and massage oils. Using oils in this way allows the oil to be absorbed through the skin and dispersed through the body, with the added benefit of the aroma delighting the senses.
Hair and scalp – Add a few drops of essential oil to your shampoo or conditioner, or for a real treat mix essential oils into a carrier oil and wrap the hair in a warm towel for 1-2 hours. Chamomile and bergamot encourage healthy hair growth.
Baths – Add 5-6 drops of essential oil to a warm bath, swirl around, and soak for 10-15 minutes avoiding any eye contact with the water. Don’t make the water too hot, or the oil will evaporate too quickly. For a foot or hand soak, add 2-3 drops of essential oil to a large bowl of warm water, and soak for 10-15 minutes. This is a lovely treat to leave you feeling soothed and revived after a long day of standing or after strenuous exercise.
Inhalation – Using a towel over the head with a steaming bowl of water and essential oils is an effective way to help ease the congestion and pain of a stuffy nose, sinuses, or a chest infection, while also providing antibacterial and antiviral actions. Peppermint, thyme, manuka or a specific blend for congestion work well.
Hot and cold compress – A compress is made by filling a bowl with hot water, adding 4-5 drops of essential oil, soaking a piece of absorbent material large enough to cover the area being treated. Squeeze out excess water and place over the affected area, securing it with a bandage or similar. Leave until compress has cooled and repeat as necessary. Cold compresses are made in the same way, using ice-cold water.
Room method – Use essential oils to enhance your environment with diffusers, candles, room sprays and water bowls. If you don’t have these, simply remove the lid of the bottle. Smelling the oil passes the essential oil molecule through the olfactory bulb in our brain.
Essential oils for autumn ailments
A change of season is a great time to reassess your health goals, according to Bronwyn, and ensure you have adequate sleep, proper digestion and stress management for general good health.
Essential oil blends for the cooler months are:
Eucalyptus, lavender, tea tree, cypress, manuka, pine scotch and thyme, which help with immune function and to support recovery.
Orange, lavender, marjoram, mandarin, ylang-ylang and chamomile, which help support sleep and aid with insomnia
Continue to use your other favourite blends throughout the season to address ailments and enhance your health and wellbeing.
Caring for your oils
Just like wine, some oils improve with age, while others are best replaced more frequently, says Bronwyn. As a general rule, most oils for use in burners and diffusers will keep up to two years.
To look after your essential oils, Bronwyn suggests:
- Keep them in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight
- Keep them in the bottle they are supplied in
- Tightly fasten the lids
- Do not use plastic bottles; they are not suitable.
Essential oils are fun and easily accessible, however there are cautions with essential oils that you should know about:
- Never use oils directly on the skin.
- Keep oils away from mouth and eyes.
- Do not use more than the recommended amounts.
- Never use undiluted amount when bathing young children or babies.
- Essential oils should not be taken internally unless directed by a qualified practitioner.
- If you are pregnant or have existing health conditions consult with a qualified practitioner before using essential oils.