What do I really need to know?
While I was thinking about this post and beginning to do some research I had a small panic attack! There is so much good information out there that I immediately felt very unqualified. But I pushed through the insecurity and remembered that my purpose in this is to take a lot of overwhelming information and get to the nitty gritty. I want to save you time and energy and give you an easy and straightforward starting place. In this case, no, I am not an expert and don’t have any certifications or specialized knowledge, but I do know what I like and why.
When I began my stress reduction journey, one of the first things I looked at was aromatherapy. I have a very sensitive nose. For example, I can smell pickles on someone’s breath three feet away from me and I can smell sauerkraut cooking in a closed house from outside. I can smell cat litter through the wall. Living with two farty dogs and two cats, there are lots of smells that are not exactly pleasing. So I decided if I was going to use aromatherapy to help me relax, the smells needed to be strong enough to overpower the yucky and pleasant enough that the strength would not be offensive. So I ordered a starter set and began to play!
I learned, for example, when we are feeling stuffy or having headaches, the eucalyptus and the minty ones are great. When I’ve been cleaning and the house is sparkling, or I’m in deep denial about how bad the house really is, I like lemon because it smells clean. When it’s cold outside, rosemary and sage are comforting and warming. And always, lavender is in the mix.
Think of it this way. If you enjoy scented candles, look at the scents you tend to go back to and why. Do you like the linen scent in your laundry room? The patchouli in the bedroom? Lemon in the kitchen? Cinnamon when it’s cold out?
It’s the same principle but with essential oils, you also get a health benefit and you get to tailor your scent to your whims. This makes changing it as easy as pouring out the old and adding the new. It’s fun to combine different oils and create your own custom scents! I’ve found this to be much more sensible than spending money on candles and then having them sit around when not in use. My partially used Yankee Candles live in an amazingly good smelling closet. But they aren’t being used and they are taking up space. My essential oils though????
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A Little Caution…
There are many sites and books that warn about certain essential oils around children and pets. And there are many warnings regarding the misuse of essential oils and the harm that can come. I have stuck to using mine in a diffuser or using a roll on made specifically for the skin. I also make sure my pets can leave the room if a scent is uncomfortable for them (although this has never happened) and at school, I use oils that are child-friendly. If you choose to delve deeper into this area, please educate yourself and do it in a safe manner. This book is great for explaining the multiple benefits of essential oils and the ways you can use them – The Complete Aromatherapy and Essential Oils Handbook for Everyday Wellness. It is clear, easy to find what you are looking for and while it’s very detailed, it is still simple to use and understand.
Okay, let’s begin.
The Fav Five
Number One: Lavender
This is an all purpose scent and it blends well with everything. Lavender is the ultimate relaxation oil. When you walk into a spa or even get your hair cut, that smell you pick up? It’s probably lavender. They want you relaxed! By itself it is really nice, not overpowering but you can definitely smell it. When combined with other oils, it blends and adds a sort of background scent that fills out the room and adds a layer of warmth. And it helps calm and sedate so it’s great after a hectic day, or when you’re ready to sleep. It’s one of the few that I like by itself.
Number Two: Lemon
I love this because it smells clean. While I know that doesn’t mean my house IS clean, it makes it smell that way and it helps my denial. It works as an anti-microbial and there a ton of sites that tell about how to use it for digestion, soothing skin irritations, and reducing inflammation in general. Lots of these benefits are enhanced through other methods involving ingesting or using a carrier oil. For me, though, lavender and lemon together create a wonderful, relaxing, calming mixture in the diffuser.
Number Three: Eucalyptus
Eucalyptus is great for colds, congestion, sinus issues, and headaches. It’s like taking that nasty vapor rub, making it smell nice, and then covering yourself in it. It clears everything out and the fresh, clean scent lifts your spirits too. Again, combined with lavender and lemon, this is a great concoction for stuffy-ness. It also smells nice and refreshing.
Number Four: Rosemary
Rosemary, surprisingly, is a wake up scent. It helps with focus, concentration and memory. Some suggest using it when driving long distances or when studying or reading. It does smell good on it’s own but I like it blended with lemon also. And it seems counter-productive to add in lavender, the great relaxer, with something that’s going to help you focus, but when you think about it, focus is much easier when you are relaxed. It all just works! And rosemary is also an anti inflammatory which never hurts.
Number Five: Clary Sage and Ylang Ylang
Yes, that is actually two. I couldn’t decide between them and “fav six” doesn’t sound as good as “fav five.” Either way, I find that I use both of these in the same way. I don’t care for the smells of either one alone but when combined with any of the others on this list, they add a subtle layer of depth underneath the top fragrances. They keep the main scent from being too overpowering.
I started using ylang ylang when my blood pressure was being wonky. It is used to lower blood pressure and as an antidepressant. Clary sage is another stress reducer and also is supposed to help with hot flashes…although the jury is still out on that one. I haven’t noticed much when I’ve used it. Although a co-worker carries a small bottle of it with her and inhales it when she feels a flash coming on. So, maybe there is something to it.
For the Car!
Oh! And for your car – no need to buy one of the fancy gadgets that plug into the console. Just use a small piece of felt, put a few drops of oil on it and toss it into the car somewhere. I did this after transporting the farty dogs WHILE WET and was able to cover the smell with a few drops of oil on felt. Amazing.
So these are my favs and why. Again, I mostly use a diffuser but there are a ton of ways to utilize the health benefits of essential oils. Even if you are skeptical and aren’t into the health aspect of them, they smell great, can be configured to what you want when you want it, and cost a lot less than candles and plug-ins.
A Note About Blends
As I walked two sniffling, coughing, germy second graders to the nurse the other morning, I was reminded of a few blends that I use regularly and enjoy immensely. The Plant Therapy Germ Fighter is a ready to use mixture for the diffuser. It has lemon, clove, eucalyptus, cinnamon, and rosemary. I used it in my middle school classroom last year and the students loved it. In fact, if they came in and couldn’t smell it they’d ask me to get it going. And I will say, my little group and I didn’t get sick that year.
Another one I like is the Relax blend also by Plant Therapy. My students liked this one too but not as much as I did. Without a doubt there was a difference in the level of rowdiness and grumpiness among the preteens when I used it. It’s a blend of lavender, marjoram, patchouli, mandarin, geranium and chamomile.
Many essential oil brands also come as roll ons. The roll on is nice because you can use it for application purposes, such as rolling eucalyptus directly onto your chest to help with congestion, without having to worry about hurting your skin or mixing something the wrong way. I have a roll on of the Germ Fighter that I will use when flu season at school really picks up.
So the final thing you might want is a diffuser. There are so many to choose from and they all talk about how and why they are special. Honestly, I chose the two I have because I liked the way they looked and they have pretty colors on them. While that’s not very scientific, when you think about why you are using the essential oils in the first place (it should be something like self care, doing it for yourself, making yourself comfortable/happy/centered) then you should pick a diffuser that has the qualities that make you feel that way. Here is the one I keep in the family room VicTsing 300ml Cool Mist Humidifier Ultrasonic Aroma Essential Oil Diffuser for Office Home Bedroom Living Room Study Yoga Spa – Wood Grain. It is my favorite. The light band changes colors!
And this is the one I keep in the bedroom. You can stop the lights on the top but the on/off light is sort of bright so I just turn it away from the bed. I also have this one at the school where I have the opposite problem. The kids love the changing colors and will sit and watch the diffuser instead of paying attention!
So grab some essential oils and fill your diffuser up to the little tiny line that you can’t see without your glasses, add several drops of a blend, or play around with your individual droppers and see what happens! You really can’t mess it up…I’ve tried.