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.
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.
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 donot 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.
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.
A couple of years ago I moved into a little studio and it only had a shower -no bath! Since I do love a bath I made sure I had the odd treat at a friends house so I didn’t miss out on this luxury. Anyway, one evening after work, I decided to take a shower which is unusual as my routine is generally to do this in the morning, as it seems more refreshing rather than relaxing. I went about it in a totally different way though, since I couldn’t incorporate the oils in the same way I would in the bath. I got out my little ceramic burner:
This is a simple devise used to scent the atmosphere in a room with essential oils. You put a tea-light in the bottom part, fill the top bowl area with water, and sprinkle essential oils of your choice into the water. As the candle heats the water it warms the essential oils too and they release their molecules into the room, including the scent. It’s useful to choose a burner that has quite a deep bowl for the water, because as it is heated by the tea light, it evaporates and when there is no water left the essential oils can burn onto the surface making it difficult to clean. Between 6 and 12 drops of essential oil should be enough in the burner, depending on the desired effect (blend inspirations below). My bathroom was quite small so a few drops had a good impact on the room, but you can use more if you feel like it.
The tea-light in the burner already gives a little glow to the room, so I switched off the light and lit a few more candles, and it felt very special -I honestly had never taken a shower by candle light nor taken the time to prepare the room in this way. It was a bit of a revelation to realise the difference it made to how I felt, and often became part of my night time and even morning time ritual. It actually felt more nurturing than a bath at the time.
Choosing the oils to scent the room is a big part of the ritual, and I like to go with what ever I feel at the time, but here are some ideas to get you started but have a play yourself, as I notice that we all have different styles to blending so you will probably come up with something completely different but perfect for the moment, and if not, it’s all part of getting to know them and what you like.
Blends for your burner:
First thing in the morning: 4 drops of Eucalyptus, 2 drops of Peppermint, 4 drops of Lemon.
For winding down in the evening: 6 drops of Lavender, 6 drops of Mandarin.
Some thing in between: 6 drops of Geranium, 4 drops of Orange, 2 drops of Thyme.
You can just use one oil if you like or as many as you want…
Remember that inhaling the oils is the fastest way their molecules enter your body, so it is still an effective method of using them.
Another very quick little trick for using the oils in the shower is to take a bottle of essential oil in to the shower with you, and once the heat is up, and the steam is rising, simply sprinkle 3 or 4 drops onto the floor below, and you will experience a brief surge of oils as the steam releases the molecules upwards. This trick works well with strong scented oils like eucalyptus or peppermint as they release their scent immediately, something like rose or myrrh would not be appropriate as they are slower to release and will dissappear down the plug hole before your nose knows it!