An essential oils primer for smelling good and feeling fine
Ever notice how inhaling a scent—of sliced orange, a rosemary sprig, or blooming lavender—can trigger a memory? Make no mistake: aromatherapy is real. The areas of your brain that process information from your olfactory senses—the limbic system and amygdala—are also involved in emotional learning and memory. In fact, the olfactory system is the only one of your senses that utilizes these two brain structures in this way. So perhaps it’s no surprise that the scent of pine has the ability to take you right back to your grandma’s house on Christmas. Scents can also perk you up or calm you down, and essential oils can be aromatic additions to your health and beauty routine. Try them because they smell good; then fall in love with them because these precious, alchemical distillations do so much more.
What They Are & How To Use Them: Essential oils are the lifeblood of a plant. The sections containing therapeutic benefit—cinnamon bark, rose petals, eucalyptus leaves—are distilled into a potent liquid, which you can use a couple of different ways. Aromatic use enhances mood and addresses immune and respiratory health; place a few drops in your palm and inhale, or diffuse an oil to combat airborne germs and odors. Oils can also be applied topically (most require dilution, so check before applying and combine it with a carrier oil like coconut or grapeseed if necessary); massaging an oil into the soles of the feet will affect your whole system. Some aromatherapists also recommend internal use (with water, in a capsule, or in edible creations), but because of essential oils’ potency, you should consult a certified aromatherapist before you ingest any of them.
What To Look For: Many brands claim purity but contain GMOs, pesticides, and chemicals. Research sourcing, sustainability, and farmer relations, then use your nose! Smelling an unadulterated lavender oil can be an awakening and is worth the investment. I like doTERRA, Floracopeia, and Living Libations. Keep in mind that plants growing in their native fields contain different chemical constituents from those that are cultivated. Air and water quality, soil chemistry, and geography are crucial.
A Few Go-To Oils: Diffuse lemon, the great cleanser, to kill bacteria. Often called liquid gold, frankincense aromatically relieves stress, and when used topically, promotes radiant skin. A soothing superhero, lavender calms the nerves with its aromatic powers and can topically treat a variety of skin irritations. Cool yourself with peppermint on a hot day or apply to temples to ease tension. For superb immune support, use oregano topically (but be sure to dilute it or you’ll feel the burn!).
DIY Radiant Skin Serum
Fill a dark glass bottle with a dropper cap halfway with fractionated coconut oil (it won’t solidify at colder temps) and 1/8 of the bottle each with jojoba oil and vitamin E oil. Add 5 drops each lavender, ylang ylang, and frankincense, and 3 drops of geranium. Fill nearly to the top with pure aloe vera. Apply morning and night to moisturize and enliven your gorgeous face. Shake before each use.
By Britta Gudmunson, greenandviolet.com
Illustrated by Caitlin Keegan
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