In our next Pretty Simple instalment, our in-house beauty expert Ceri – founder of top Central spa Glow with Ceri Silk – teaches us how to treat common ailments with nothing more than Mother Nature’s gentle touch.
You’re living in the fastlane, trying to juggle work, family and social commitments and keep minor ailments like disturbed sleep patterns, muscular aches, insect bites and excess fat at bay. You need something to help you keep the balance, but don’t want to turn into a total junky by rushing to the doctor and popping pills with every stress headache and twinging muscle. How about considering a more natural option like essential oils?
Dating back to 3000 BC, aromatic essential oils, found in the seeds, bark, stems, roots, flowers and other parts of plants, have been used extensively by many cultures in medical practice, beauty treatments, food preparation and in religious ceremony. Frankincense and myrrh were once more valuable than gold, and for many centuries essential oils were the only remedies for widespread diseases and conditions. During the dreaded Black Plague, apothecaries used them as a preventative treatment, and very few who surrounded themselves in essential oils became ill.
Modern scientific studies and trends towards more holistic approaches to wellness, with people taking responsibility for their own health, are driving a revival of essential oil health applications. In France and much of Western Europe, aromatherapy is incorporated into mainstream medicine as an antiseptic, antiviral, anti-fungal and antibacterial agent.
How to use essential oils
Incorporating essential oils into your daily life is easy. They are usually taken by one of three methods:
Diffused aromatically – The inhalation of essential oils stimulates the part of the brain connected to smell – the olfactory system – which influences many physiological pathways including the stimulation of hormones, emotions and retrieving learned memories. Inhalation can make you feel relaxed, calm or stimulated, depending on the oil used.
Applied topically – Due to their natural molecular composition, essential oils are easily absorbed by the skin and have an immediate localised benefit on the target area of application. They have restorative and calming properties and are also natural disinfectants. Some oils can be applied neat, but generally it’s best to mix essential oils with a carrier oil, such as your favourite body lotion or one of the specially produced massage oils. For best results, I recommend fractionated coconut oil, as it is processed in a way that removes all the long-chain fatty acids, leaving only the healthy medium-chain fatty acids.
Internally as dietary supplements – Some essential oils have powerful antioxidant properties and can stimulate the immune system and the metabolism. If the essential oil can be administered orally, take it in capsule form or add a drop to a glass of water.
However, please remember that not all essential oils are of the same purity. Be sure to use only 100% Pure Therapeutic Grade® (CPTG) oils, as they represent the safest, purest and most beneficial essential oils available today, and follow all label warnings and instructions. CPTG essential oils are gently and skilfully distilled from plants that have been patiently harvested at the perfect moment for ideal extract composition and efficacy.
It is important to remember that CPTG essential oils are highly-concentrated plant extracts and should be used with reasonable care; one drop is usually enough. Also, for more serious ailments, always consult your doctor.
My Top Ten Oils for your First Aid Kit
Lavender – the most popular oil, cherished for its unmistakable aroma and its therapeutic properties. Lavender is widely used and acknowledged for its calming and relaxing qualities. It can also be used to treat burns, bites, cuts and grazes. Diffuse in a room or apply topically to calm anxiety and soothe emotions. Massage into your back or the bottom of your feet and apply a drop to your pillow at bedtime.
Melaleuca – recognised by its more common name ‘tea tree’, this oil is revered for its cleansing, antiseptic and regenerative properties, especially for the skin. Apply to skin blemishes and rashes as part of a daily cleansing programme, or use with shampoo or conditioner for a healthy scalp and hair. Apply to feet and toenails after showering, swimming or working out to prevent fungal infections.
Lemon – is uplifting for the mind and body and improves concentration. It is also known for its ability to purge toxins from any part of the body, including the hair and scalp, digestive system and kidneys. Place a drop in a glass of water for a refreshing drink, or add a drop to a spoon of honey to soothe a dry or sore throat. Alternately, diffuse in a room to neutralise odours and elevate your mood. You can even use it to clean kitchen counters and stainless steel appliances!
Peppermint – can increase alertness, reduce headaches, ease breathing difficulties and aid the digestive system. Use with lemon oil in water for a healthy, refreshing mouth rinse. Diffuse and inhale deeply to invigorate lungs and increase alertness. Add to water in a spray bottle and mist your body when overheated, or apply to the neck and forehead with lavender to calm headaches.
Frankincense – perhaps the most precious and powerful of the ancient oils, frankincense is highly sought after by modern consumers for its many uses, including relaxation, immune support and mood enhancement. Use to clean and dress minor cuts and sores, or combined with a carrier oil for beautiful, radiant and youthful skin. Apply to the bottom of the feet or use internally to support immune function, or use with lavender and peppermint to calm stress and headaches. When in doubt, use frankincense (diluted)!
Clove – famous for reducing the pain of a toothache, clove oil is most popular in dentistry because of its sedative properties. Clove bud oil is also used in Tiger Balm to help improve circulation and reduce muscle pain. Apply topically to painful gums for or to temples and the back of the neck for headaches.
Ginger – used to combat nausea, morning sickness or travel sickness, ginger is also very useful for helping treat colds and the flu, especially when there is catarrh involved. It helps ease muscle aches and pains, and is often used for digestive problems and poor circulation. Mixed with a carrier oil, ginger can be applied topically to help treat arthritic and rheumatic pain. Last but maybe not least, it is great for hangovers. Take one drop in a glass of water to treat an upset stomach.
Eucalyptus – because of the many influential compounds found in eucalyptus, it is a key ingredient in cough and throat medicines and chest ointments. Eucalyptus is used widely, both for its calming and clearing properties as well as to ease breathing. Apply topically to the chest and neck to help clear lungs and sinuses, or add to a humidifier at bedtime for more restful sleep.
Roman Chamomile – the most versatile of the chamomiles, Roman chamomile is extracted from the small, white daisy-like flower of the Roman chamomile plant. Used widely for its calming properties, the essential oil is especially soothing to the systems of the body and helps to support a healthy inflammatory response.
Rosemary – considered sacred by ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians and Hebrews, rosemary has been revered by healers for centuries for its digestive uses and powers of reducing muscular aches and pains. Apply directly to tired, aching joints or rub on muscles before and after exercise to reduce discomfort. Use with a carrier oil for a therapeutic deep-tissue massage.