How To Use Lavender Essential Oil

lavender rows

I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather just recently, and decided to write this post after realising I had used lavender essential oil three times for supporting myself when feeling unwell in one morning.  When I’m run down, my glands generally start swelling up, I get achy and tired and sometimes a headache.  On this morning I applied some lavender oil to my tender glands on my neck, gargled with a drop of lavender oil, to ease my sore throat, and rubbed a little around the top of my neck that was aching a lot.  Later that day when carelessly getting up off the floor and scratching my knuckle with my own fingernail, I applied a drop to the cut as an anti-septic and to help the pain.  Since it was in an awkward place, I then applied a plaster, but put a drop of lavender oil on the padded section first.

I suspect that I’m renowned by my friends and family for saying “you should put some lavender on that” if I happen to see them with a cut, burn or spot, or if they mention an array of other ailments.  Sometimes they will roll their eyes, but sometimes they will try out my advice, and give me positive feedback, along with a little surprise.

Lavender stripes

Lavender really is the most useful of all essential oils, for one thing, you can use it neat on your skin which makes it easy, quick and practical to use which is ideal for little accidents.  Some of the reasons that lavender is helpful in these situations is because it is very antiseptic, pain relieving and cleansing.

Here is a list of common minor complaints that lavender can be really handy and effective for.  Please note that for anything more than a minor condition, you should see your doctor or seek further professional advice.

Spots – apply a drop after cleansing morning and evening, do not pick or squeeze, you can use cotton wool pads or buds to apply.

Burns – extremely supportive for helping to heal burns, apply after you have held the burn under cold water for 10 minutes. Continue neat application or a mix of lavender essential oil and aloe vera gel as this will help to heal the skin and reduce scarring. Lavender is actually used to treat burns in hospitals so it is perfect for the job.

Ear Ache – roll a small piece of cotton wool up, apply 1 drop of lavender oil, and place just inside your ear, do not push it deep into the ear, and remember to remove it.

Head Ache – people often apply a drop of lavender to their temples and gently massage with their fingertips.  I would suggest this, but if you feel the ache somewhere specific like around the back of the neck or in the centre of your forehead then I would apply the oil and gently massage this area instead.

Insect Bites and Stings – apply 1 drop to the affected area.

Cuts, Grazes, Scratches -any little nicks to the skin – apply neat to the affected area, as it has a cleansing action and acts as an antiseptic.  If it needs a plaster, you can put a drop of lavender on to the soft part that goes over the wound before applying.

Veruccas – apply 1 drop of lavender oil to the effected area once or twice a day, using a cotton wool pad or bud.

Warts – apply 1 drop of lavender oil to the effected area once or twice a day, using a cotton wool pad or bud.

Athletes Foot – you can either mix 1 drop of lavender into enough skin cream or lotion to massage into your foot. Do this every day until clear.  Alternatively, make up a batch to use in advance so if you have 100ml of cream/lotion add 250 drops of lavender (this is quite strong so only use it for the athlete’s foot).

Fungal nail infections – apply 1 drop to the effected nail, ensure that it also covers the skin just below the nail, as this is where the new nail is growing from, and you want to be treating this part too.

Genital Thrush/ Candida – for females, put one drop of lavender essential oil on a panty pad and attach to underwear as you would during your cycle.  Change it regularly, applying a drop to each new pad.  I have had some great feedback when suggesting this and it is very simple and non-invasive.

Oral Thrush/ Candida – use an egg cup full of water, add 1 drop of lavender to it, and gargle with it in your mouth for as long as possible (at least 2 minutes) but do not swallow.  Do this 2 to 4 times a day.

You can also gargle with lavender for the following conditions: Halitosis, Sore throats, Tonsillitis, Gum disease, Ulcers, when losing your voice, and for general oral hygiene (once or twice a day after brushing your teeth). For details on how to gargle with essential oils see my blog on ‘Gargling with Myrrh’.

Lavender essential oil really is an essential addition to your first aid kit!

white lavender

Feel free to share any first aid tips or uses you have for lavender.

Note: Tea tree is very similar in action to lavender, and it is also oil you can use neat on your skin, so you can use tea tree in place of lavender for any of the above remedies, however my preference is for lavender as the smell is less medicinal and less aggressive.  I would recommend lavender over tea tree in the case of minor burns.

Caution: There are many types of lavender oil on the market, so please make sure you use a good quality product, from a trusted supplier that is actually pure, undiluted lavender essential oil with the botanical or latin name ‘Lavandula angustifolia’.  Some other types of lavender oil may be either too harsh for using neat on the skin, or may just be a lavender scented product made from synthetic chemicals, which would not have the healing benefits and may irritate the area instead.

Click here to buy Lavender Essential Oil.

How to Use Essential Oils in the Car

I noticed my car smelt a little damp when I got in the other day.  This is not surprising considering the #weather in the UK the last few months -which seems like constant rain, and my car is just a little old thing so it doesn’t cut me off from the environment outside.

Anyway, I decided that apart from a clean it needed a little freshening up with some essential oils.  When I first bought the car, I didn’t like the smell, so I chose some strong, fresh, cleansing scents -Eucalyptus, Peppermint and Lemon -because I wanted something to overpower the current smell and to make an impact.  I literally just sprinkled drops of each oil throughout the various surfaces of the car.  The beauty of these oils is that as well as the refreshing aroma, they will have a cleansing and anti-microbial action in the car.  Later on I got a little lavender bag to hang from the mirror, this is a bag filled with lavender flowers which hold essential oil in them and produce a beautiful scent).  When I turn the car enough for the bag to swing, I get a little whiff of lavender from it. This is the one I have, handmade ‘by sally’ and available at www.bysally.co.uk, but there are plenty around, to choose from.

lilac butterfly bag by sally ~containing lavender flowers which hold essential oil in them to create the scent.
Lilac butterfly bag by sally ~containing lavender flowers which hold essential oil in them to create a beautiful scent.
After quite a while I stopped noticing the scent, so I sprinkled some lavender oil on to the bag to refresh the smell.  Every so often, when the scent fades, I will repeat this, and I will generally choose different oils depending on how I feel. I keep a couple of bottles in the glove box and on a long journey, I might sprinkle 2 or 3 drops of peppermint oil on the bag, as this will keep me perky throughout the drive.

Caution: Make sure you avoid any oils that have sedating properties, as this won’t work well when driving (avoid valerian, carrot seed, clary sage & vetiver).

Using essential oils to freshen the smell of your car is a lovely way to look after you and your environment, and I would say it’s preferable to the usual car trinkets as some of the ingredients I have come across include nasty chemicals.

You can also use lavender bags to freshen and scent your home; I have them in my wardrobe, and various draws and cupboards throughout the house.  Use the same technique of adding drops of essential oil every now and then to freshen them up.

A Basic Introduction on How to Use Essential Oils

I have learnt far more by experimenting and actually using essential oils myself rather than from books, but there is still a lot of important information to know that will help you understand and get more of a feel for how to use them.

What are essential oils?

Essential oils are naturally produced by many plants and can be found in their seeds (coriander & fennel), fruits (mandarin & lime), flowers (rose & orange blossom/neroli), leaves (basil & geranium), woods (cedar wood & sandalwood) roots (ginger & angelica) and resin (frankincense & myrrh).  The essential oil is extracted from the plant material, usually by a process called ‘Steam Distillation’ which involves passing steam through the plant material to release and capture the essential oil molecules (more intricate details will appear in a future post).

There is another method, mainly used with citrus oils, called ‘expression’, where the oil is literally just pressed from the peel of the fruit. You can actually release the oil yourself if you dig your finger nail into the peel of an orange or lemon, as you pierce the cells you will be able to see and smell the essential oil.  Make sure you use an ‘un-waxed’ fruit, the waxed kind have been sealed.

Citrus fruit peel yields a lot of oil compared to other parts of plants, but you can probably still imagine that it would take the peel of many oranges to make a little 10ml bottle of Orange Essential Oil.  This should also highlight how concentrated the oil is.  Some plants yield a very tiny amount of oil in comparison, for example, roses.  It takes around 1200 rose flowers (that’s flowers not petals!) to make just 1ml of rose essential oil, which equals around 40 drops of extremely precious oil!  This should go a little way to addressing the high price of rose oil and other delicate floral oils, which generally hold a very small amount of essential oil.

What are the effects of essential oils?

Hopefully, you now have a good sense of the potency of essential oils and perhaps an idea of how powerful their effects can be.  You may be aware of how they are widely used to help us relax, and used as ingredients in bath oils or room sprays and that they are found in many beauty products to help improve our skin, but there are many other ways they can help support us both on a physical level and on the way we feel. The fact that they have such strong scents can have very tangible, immediate effects on our bodies and our moods.  All essential oils I have come across have anti-microbial properties which make them particularly suitable for using to help treat illness and disease, and can have various effects on all systems in the body from the endocrine to the digestive system.

How do you use essential oils safely?

Realising the potency of essential oils can also highlight why there are some safety precautions to observe and why it’s important to dilute them when using them on your skin.  In their neat form, they are way too strong for to use directly on the skin and  can cause tingling or burning sensations, and other reactions.  Diluting them in a vegetable oil is ideal as they themselves have many nourishing properties that your skin can also benefit from.  Generally they are full of vitamins and fatty acids that help keep skin healthy and vital.  They also help the essential oils absorb into your skin more easily.  Some other modes for diluting essential oils include honey, milk or aloe vera gel -water based products are not appropriate as the essential oils are hydrophobic (water-hating), and will not mix together.  You do not need to dilute essential oils when using them in a burner, diffusor or for inhalation (all methods to be covered in future posts). See my earlier blog post: Essential Oils in the Shower for details on using essential oils in a burner.

Always dilute essential oils before using them on your skin -including in the bath.
Various modes of application to the skin include:  massage, bath, compresses, skin care preparations such as creams or balms and neat application*.  They can also be used by inhalation (using diffusor, burner, steam inhalation or directly from a tissue) and they can also be used internally. The versatility and range of applications of the oils allows for your own personal input that means they can really support you in your life.  For example you can chose to give yourself a foot bath each night, (with a mix of peppermint essential oil and olive oil) when you get home from work because you have a job where you’re on your feet all day, and that’s what really supports you; or there may be a certain oil that helps calm your breath when feeling stressed or anxious, (e.g. frankincense, lavender or neroli essential oil) and you keep a little bottle in a your hand bag  to dot on a tissue and gently breath in for when you feel to use.  This is what i really love about the oils, that you can bring them into your daily, weekly or monthly routine to support you in so many different ways -all shared throughout this blog!

*Note: It is generally accepted that lavender and tea tree essential oils can be used neat on the skin. See my blog post on Lavender, Essential First Aid, for more details on using lavender or tea tree.

How to Make a Bath and Massage oil Blend

I have come up with a few favourite bath and massage blends over the years and I like to make a bottle up so it is ready to use when I’m in the mood.

You can make your own blend up with the following instructions or use the recipes I have shared below:

100ml Bath & Massage Blend Recipe

100ml of your choice of vegetable oil (eg. almond, apricot, or simply olive oil from your kitchen!)

50 drops or 2.5ml of your choice of essential oil

~these can be one or a combination of oils, but keep the totals to 100ml for the vegetable oil and  2.5ml (50 drops) for the essential oil.

Directions: If the vegetable oil you have is in  a 100ml bottle, then you can simply add the essential oil(s) to this and give it a shake to disperse evenly.  You may need to pour a tiny amount of the vegetable oil out first to allow room for the essential oils.  If you have a larger container of vegetable oil you can either adjust the amount of essential oil you add (eg. double if you have a 200ml container), or measure out the 100ml in a kitchen measuring jug, add the essential oils and stir, and then pour into a 100ml bottle or container.  Ensure the container you use is completely dry, as if the oil blend mixes with any water it will go off.  You can usually buy empty bottles at chemists, department stores, or Muji in London, or you could try antique shops for some elegant glass containers.

Use: Add 1-2 tea-spoons in the bath (add just before you step in for maximum benefits).  See ‘Essential Oils in the Bath’ blog post for more on using your bath blend.

Delicious Bath

Turkish Delight Bath and Massage oil Blend ~Nurturing, relaxing and refreshing.

100ml Argan oil

Rose essential oil, 5 drops

Black Pepper essential oil, 25 drops

Cardamom essential oil, 20 drops

Vanilla Orange Bath and Massage oil Blend ~Soothes and eases tension, and great for the skin.

100ml Almond oil

Benzoin oil, 27 drops (this is quite a thick oil so you will need to shake well for it to mix evenly)

Orange essential oil, 16 drops

Neroli 7 drops

Each recipe above gives you a blend strength of 2.5%, which is appropriate for most skin types.  I would recommend dropping this blend strength to 1% (20 drops/100ml) for children, elderly and those with  sensitive skin.

These blends should last for 12 to 18 months, but keep them in a cool dark place to ensure they stay fresh because the oils are sensitive to heat and light (so a bathroom cupboard would be suitable, but not a sunny windowsill or shelf above a radiator).

They can also be used as a massage oil directly on the skin, or for moisturising  after taking a shower, you should notice it makes it easier to apply the oil to slightly damp skin and you also seem to use less of it.

As I cover more of the properties and effects of different essential oils, you will develop more of an idea on how to mix a blend up for specific purposes, in the mean time, please feel free to ask any questions or advise on making your own blends.