With things changing rapidly and not all of us finding this easy to navigate, anxiety could be on the rise. Find your calm again with this quick guide to essential oils.
You already know the brain is complex and highly sophisticated, but did you know it can also identify a million different scents? I find this hard to comprehend because when someone says, "what does this smell of?" It's always on the tip of my tongue, or I can't quite decide if one scent is stronger than the other. Does anyone have that 'familiar smell but can't quite put my finger on it' moment?
On the other hand, I love it when you smell something that takes you back to a childhood memory, like germolene or sweet peas. It's that smell of being looked after when you fell and grazed your knee or the scent of the flowers in my Grandad's garden. He loved gardening, and they were always so beautiful, creeping up the garden fence.
It's then easy to see why aromatherapy, which harnesses the power of plants, should have such a profound effect on the body. We often describe the essential oils used in aromatherapy as the essence or flavour of the plant. But these fragrant molecules also benefit us with their unique properties; antibacterial, calming effects or the ability to energise us.
How do they work?
Essential oils trigger sensors in our nose and brain, prompting us to release neurotransmitters (hormones and endorphins) that can positively impact our physical and emotional wellbeing.
Some can reduce nerve activity, helping you to relax. Others, like peppermint, are good for digestion as they work on the channels in the body that soothe the stomach muscles.
But with a mountain of information, it's hard to know where to start with aromatherapy. A simple way is to decide on your health and wellbeing goals and then research which oils may be helpful.
The golden rule is never to apply oils directly to the skin. Instead, use them in a diffuser, add them to your bath in a tablespoon of milk, or add them to your favourite moisturiser.
Enhance your wellbeing
Start by collecting a few key essential oils and add a couple of base creams and oils. I love Neal's yard's create range for this, a base of unscented ointments, creams, lotions and oils (from £7). Almond oil, grapeseed oil and coconut oil are also good bases. The beauty of this is you can then experiment with small batches and simply change the oils as necessary. Add one drop of essential oil per 1ml of base oil for the face and sensitive skin, and up to two drops of essential oil for the body, and have some fun!
If you are tempted to give essential oils a go, here are some ideas from Eve Boggenpoel, an experienced journalist, author and yoga teacher, to get you started.
Most people know lavender is good for helping us drift off, so if you haven't tried it yet, it's worth a go. Research at Wesleyan University in Connecticut found lavender oil increases slow-wave sleep. That is, it slows your heart rate and relaxes muscles.
Best oils for sleep: Lavender, bergamot, Roman Camomile, patchouli, mandarin, and sandalwood.
Try this: fill your bedroom with sleep-enhancing essential oils with the help of the Goodnight Pillow mist spray (£15.00). The tranquil blend of organic lavender, vetiver and mandarin essential oils promote a sense of calm for a peaceful night.
"It's so effective it worked almost immediately."
Rosie Underwood, OK! Magazine, Fashion and Beauty Director
Summer colds, hay fever and mild covid can interfere with your breathing and leave you feeling out of sorts with inflammation, mucus and congestion.
Best oils for breathing: Eucalyptus, cinnamon, cedarwood, thyme, frankincense, sandalwood and lavender.
Try this: Boil the kettle and grab yourself a bowl of steaming hot water, a teaspoon of eucalyptus salve (£10.00), and a towel. This skin-softening salve can clear the head with the purifying scent of pine and eucalyptus essential oils. Put your head under the towel and over the hot water for a steam inhalation that will keep you breathing easy.
Whether you simply feel achy, you've pulled a muscle, or have stiff and inflamed joints, oils with anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties can ease pain and increase flexibility. Massaging them into affected areas encourages blood flow, helps promote healing and removes damaged tissue.
Best oils for muscle pain: Chili, ginger, black pepper (for warmth), eucalyptus, peppermint (to cool), and turmeric.
Try this: Massage warming salve (£10.00), made with stimulating organic ginger and rosemary, into those tired and achy areas for ease and comfort.
Balance those hormones
Your hormones play havoc with your emotions, especially in the days before your period or leading up to menopause. Essential oils can help you to feel more balanced during these sensitive times.
Best oils for hormonal balance: Rose, clary sage (avoid if you are pregnant), germanium, jasmine, bergamot, and grapefruit.
Try this: Add a few drops of the Women's balance essential oil blend (£15.50) to your bath or diffuser, or even to your favourite lotion and massage into the abdomen. It's a beautiful balancing blend of relaxing patchouli, uplifting geranium, nurturing rose and rejuvenating frankincense. The combination works together to harmonise body and mind. The rose and geranium also help to take the edge off your emotions, giving you inner clarity. It's handy during hormonal changes, helping to restore any imbalances you may be feeling both emotionally and physically.
We have all experienced increased stress and anxiety over the last year or so, so it's more important than ever to practice self-care, and adding essential oils to your daily routine could help you feel calmer and more at peace.
Best oils for stress: rosemary, neroli, geranium, frankincense, lemon, and bergamot.
Try this: The calming reed diffuser (£35.00). Wonderfully fragrant, it contains an expert blend of soothing rose and comforting geranium organic essential oils. The 100% natural fragrance is diffused through natural reeds, leaving your space beautifully scented with a calming aroma.
'Healing begins with an aromatic bath and daily massage' - Hippocrates.