Simple Essential Oils – Part Six: The follow-up post

This post should have been written a long time ago.  But it wasn’t.  One reason being that I’ve found it incredibly difficult to find the brain space and time to write much at all since having three little ones five and under (as is clearly evidenced by the fact that the last post here was written over a year and a half ago!).  But the main reason is that I’ve been really conflicted on how to go about writing this post.  I don’t want to cast a bad light on a company that I still dearly love and use often, but at the same time, the information I presented and recommendations I made when I first wrote this series a couple years ago has changed.  And considering that this series still gets some traffic and people reading it, I felt it was necessary to do a follow-up.

In short, I no longer recommend Beeyoutiful essential oils as a great option for those wanting to get into using essential oils.  It’s not that I think they’re horrible oils, or that I no longer support Beeyoutiful as a company.  I fully support Beeyoutiful as a natural supplement company and still order quite a bit from them (we use their Miracle Salve almost daily!).  However, I don’t think they’re the best option for essential oils, and have found several that I think are better.

Several years ago, when I first started researching and using essential oils, there were two options that I knew of: essential oils from the popular multi-level marketing companies, Young Living and doTerra, or those purchased from health food stores.  I didn’t want to buy from the MLMs as I thought their oils were incredibly over-priced, and even with the little research I had done up to that point, I recognized that the majority of their usage recommendations were unsafe (using them undiluted/neat and taking them internally without the supervision of an aromatherapist).  Even though I knew I wasn’t required to use the oils as they recommended, I couldn’t, in good conscience, support companies who made such recommendations just to get people to buy more of their products.  I didn’t really want to buy the majority of the essential oils offered in health food stores as most of the ones I had seen up to that point didn’t seem like they were very good quality (i.e. there was a lack of basic information about the oil on the bottle, all the oils were priced the same regardless of type, etc.).  At the time, Beeyoutiful seemed like the great third option: they weren’t over-priced and the company was very conservative in their usage recommendations, but from what I had researched about essential oils so far, they still seemed like quality oils.

As I talked about when I first wrote the Simple Essential Oils series, I used Beeyoutiful oils for several years and was very happy with them.  I had a basic collection and I was slowly figuring out how to safely use the oils for different ailments my family came up against, and how to effectively use them to replace conventional cleaners and the like.  However, in the last two years, I’ve been researching essential oils a lot more and a whole new world has opened before me!  I discovered that there were a lot of others out there like me who were striving to learn more about essential oils, but didn’t want that to involve the MLM companies.  And through these others, I found out that there’s quite a few essential oil companies that sell quality oils for a reasonable price.  I was so excited about all the options that I now knew about!

The more I researched though, I discovered several signs that made me wonder if Beeyoutiful oils were as great as I thought they were.   They failed to supply some information about the oil that I was learning was very important — things like where the plant was grown and what part of the plant the oil was extracted from.  Also, the more I read about aromatherapy and discussed things with certified aromatherapists, I started to wonder how much Beeyoutiful actually know about aromatherapy.  Not that they were trying to pass themselves off as something they weren’t, but essential oils are just a small part of their company, and therefore they couldn’t make aromatherapy their focus.

Along with those wonderings, I started to become concerned about some of the usage recommendations that I was seeing from Beeyoutiful regarding different ways to use their essential oils.  Now that I had a much better grasp on the safety considerations that come with delving into aromatherapy, practices and recommendations that I had originally taken at face value raised some red flags for me.  Things like not mentioning when an oil would be unsafe to use around young children (this article has a lot of good information about that), and recommending dilutions that were much higher than they ought to be.  Seeing these tendencies in the recommendations made by the company made me feel that I could no longer recommend them as a source to others beginning their journey into using essential oils.

But all is definitely not lost — there are several other options out there to use as essential oils suppliers without having to get caught up in the over-priced and dangerously-marketed MLMs.

My top favourite supplier is definitely Plant Therapy.  They are an amazing company and I have yet to hear anything bad about them (which, if you’ve read much online about essential oils, is pretty rare!).  Their oils are great quality and very reasonably-priced (with free shipping on every order!).  My favourite aspect of their company though, is their focus on essential oil safety.  There are no crazy recommendations specific to their company just to get you to use up your oils faster so you can buy more.  All their recommendations follow basic guidelines recognized in the global aromatherapy world.  Plant Therapy even teamed up with Robert Tisserand, the world-renowned expert on essential oil safety, to develop their line of KidSafe blends, specifically made with oils that are safe to use with young children.  As a mama to little ones, this was huge for me!  I could go on about the company, but suffice to say: I highly recommend Plant Therapy to anyone looking to get started in essential oils.

While Plant Therapy is my go-to, I have also been very happy with Florihana essential oils.  They’re a small company in France, and make great quality oils, but with international shipping and all, ordering directly from them can be pretty expensive.  As such, I’ve ordered all of my Florihana essential oils through Tropical Traditions.  I’ve been very happy with the oils themselves, but Tropical Tradtions’ stock seems to fluctuate significantly so I’ve only purchased from them a handful of times.

Well, I guess that covers most of what has been mulling around in my brain about this post for the past year or so.  I hope to do (another!) follow-up post sometime in the near future with links to different websites and books that have been helpful to me as I’ve continued to learn more and more about using essential oils in my family.  I definitely don’t know everything about the topic (not even close!), but if you have any questions, I’d be happy to share what I’ve learned.


Crunchy interviews

As you may have noticed, what with a new baby in the house and me figuring out how to be a mama to three littles three and under, not much blogging has been happening.  Type-able computer time is at an all-time low, as is creative brain power.  However, I can still answer questions, and so recently I participated in two interviews at the blog, Nourishing Simplicity.  It was “So Long Disposables, Hello Cloth” month and as the entire topic is one I feel strongly about, it was fun to share my experiences.  Along with several other mamas, we talked about using cloth diapers and cloth menstrual pads (mama cloth).  And as fun as it was to participate, I also really enjoyed hearing other women’s perspectives as well.

So Long Disposables, Hello Cloth Diapers {Interviews with Four Bloggers}

So Long Disposables, Hello Cloth Pads {Interviews with Three Bloggers}

I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences as well!

The birth story of Avila Constance

To properly tell this story, and explain all that the Lord taught me through it, I’ll have start before I actually went into labor…

My due date was on a Saturday (May 11th), and a week before that, my sister-in-law had their first baby. An exciting time, to be sure, but in all honesty, it was very hard for me to deal with because I was the one who was due first (by several days). Yes, that’s immature, but very pregnant women aren’t known for their rational emotions… At 39 weeks pregnant, I was very much in the “safe zone” and I was very ready to have this baby.

My mom arrived the Tuesday before my due date and was planning on staying two weeks. And as much as I wanted to just have this baby, I was relieved that the baby had at least waited until my mom got here. Even though we had back-up people to watch Cedar and Genoa during the birth, it would be much simpler if my mom was here since she was staying with us. Driving home from the airport on Tuesday evening, the last logistical piece of the puzzle was in place, and my “plan” was to go into labour early Wednesday morning. We could all get a good night’s sleep and we would get the greatest postpartum benefit of my mom’s presence. Also, we weren’t sure what my mom was going to do with the kids if I had the baby at night. We’re in a pretty small house and I’m not a quiet laborer so I didn’t want the kids to get scared if they heard Mama moaning and screaming.

Wednesday morning rolled around and nothing. Not even any pre-labor contractions. I had a lot of pre-labor contractions with both Cedar and Genoa‘s pregnancies, but had hardly had any with this one.  And while I had been thankful for that, it also scared me a bit since both the other labors were 20+ hours even after the pre-labor contractions.  Wednesday continued with nothing out of the ordinary and my mom offered to watch the kids that evening so Aaron and I could go out for dinner.  We hadn’t been on an “out” date for almost a year, so we gladly took her up on the offer and I was thankful that I hadn’t gone into labor that morning.  However, once the date was over, I was definitely good to go so the next “plan” was to have the baby on Thursday.  I had a midwife appointment late Thursday morning and as our midwife lives over an hour away, I was hoping that I’d have a reason to tell her to come here instead of me going there!

Thursday morning dawned and not much was happening.  I had a couple hours of random harder contractions, but they eventually petered out.  However, because of those contractions I had called my midwife, Debi, and she told me to not try to come to the appointment with the hope I’d have the baby in the next couple of days.  That was a relief, but I still got pretty discouraged when the contractions stopped and nothing was happening.  I was talking about it all with my mom and about how this really was teaching me that God’s plans are better than mine, even when it doesn’t seem like it.  She brought up a C.S. Lewis quote from The Weight of Glory:

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are…like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

We joked that we should name the baby “Sandcastle”, but the reminder was exactly what I needed.  Here I was making what I thought were “perfect” plans and they weren’t coming to pass.  But that shouldn’t make me anxious (exactly what was happening) — instead it should reassure me that God’s plans were even more perfect than that and I just needed to trust Him.

I awoke around 4:30 on Friday morning with hard contractions.  They were roughly ten minutes apart and continued despite a hot shower and moving around some.  I called Debi around 6:30 to let her know what was happening.  The contractions were still ten minutes apart, but were getting to the point where I had to vocalize through them.  I wasn’t sure if Debi should come yet, but she wanted to and she said that she would alert her two student midwives, Rachel and Rebecca, and that they would start heading in our direction.

Over the next hour or two, the rest of the household woke up (Aaron was obviously already awake) and Mom took over care of the kids.  I spent most of the time lying on my side on our bed, trying to rest and relax through the contractions.  They stayed at about ten minutes apart, but continued to grow in intensity.  Because my mom was with the kids, Aaron was able to stay with me and rub my back during contractions as that was the only thing that helped with the pain at all.

The midwives arrived shortly after nine and Debi checked to see how dilated I was.  As I hadn’t really had any pre-labor contractions and the ones that morning hadn’t been very close together, I had been mentally preparing myself to only be a couple centimeters or so.  However, when Debi checked me, I was already around 5-6!  Needless to say, I was very excited that things were progressing so quickly.

Because I was already so dilated, the midwives started working to prep our bedroom and fill the birthing pool. Debi had both her student midwives with her and I was amazed at what a great team they all were.  They just took over prepping everything and Aaron and I hung out in our living room while my mom and the kids played outside.

Once the pool was filled, Debi called me to come and look at it.  The local water isn’t great and we filter it to drink and cook with, and in the pool, it had a very obvious brownish tint.  Debi said that she wouldn’t feel comfortable birthing in it and I agreed.  However, it would be totally fine to labor in and so I prepared to get in.  The water felt relaxing, but in the tub Aaron couldn’t rub/push on my lower back in the same way he could when I was lying on the bed.  As that was really the only thing that helped at all with the pain, after a few minutes I opted to get out and labor on the bed.

After I had moved into active labor, my mom had taken the kids on a long bike ride to the park with plans to picnic there and come back once the baby was born.  I had been slightly nauseous most of the morning and so hadn’t eaten much, but I occasionally sipped on a raw milk/chocolate/banana/peanut butter smoothie that Aaron had made me and tried to keep drinking water.  Every so often, one of the midwives would come in and check the baby’s heart-tones, but for the most part, Aaron and I were left alone to labor together.  I lay on my side on the bed, breathing and moaning through contractions.  Aaron would push on/rub my back through every contraction — he never left my side.  With my other two births, by the time the midwife got there, I was already in active labor or transition and Aaron had to be helping set up the birth pool, etc.  But this time, he was able to stay with me the entire time and it was incredible. Other than the very strong contractions, the next hour or so was quite peaceful as my body moved through active labor and started transition.

I started to feel pretty pushy after awhile and when Debi checked me, I was around nine centimeters, but with a lip of cervix in the way.  She wanted me to wait to try pushing since I wasn’t fully dilated yet, but pretty soon the urge was so overwhelming that she let me try and see if that pushed the lip out of the way.  It did, but slowly.  With Genoa’s birth, I had felt her head descend on the first push and I was expecting that to happen again since this was my third baby, but for the first ten minutes or so of pushing, it felt pretty unproductive.

The sudden change in plans from a waterbirth to birthing “on land” wasn’t as big of a deal as I thought it might be, but in my laboring state, it left me rather confused as I’ve only ever given birth in the water and loved it.  In retrospect, I can see that I should have just let my body take over and do what it knew to do in regard to birthing on land, but instead I ended up trying to duplicate birthing in the water minus the water.   This meant that I didn’t really try to experiment with different positions when pushing, etc. but stayed in the semi-reclined position that I had gravitated toward with my previous births. Since the pool wasn’t in the way this time, Aaron was able to be directly behind me and support me through the pushing phase which was very calming.

Pushing this time around was a lot more painful than the other two births, especially Genoa’s.  That, combined with my unmet expectations of a very fast pushing phase, made pushing seem like it was taking forever, but in reality I think it was only around fifteen or twenty minutes.  Also due to the fact that I thought it “should” take less time than it was meant that, after I got going, I wasn’t really waiting for strong contractions to push.  Basically, in general, if I had just realized that each birth is completely different from previous ones, I think it would have made the pushing phase a lot more effective and enjoyable.

But, in the end, I finally started feeling the baby descend and I pushed the head out.  Though I didn’t know it at the time, the baby was born in the caul so Debi broke the bag of waters while I finished pushing the rest of the body out. (A neat little gift as I had always wanted a caul baby!)  The midwives told me to reach down and catch my baby, but I said I didn’t want to because my hands were tingling so badly from me hyperventilating some while pushing.  However, despite my protests otherwise, apparently I did catch my baby and brought her up onto my chest.  It was 12:31 in the afternoon, on Friday, May 10th, 2013 — the day before the due date.

We discovered that the baby was a girl (what I had thought all along!) and she was much chubbier than either Cedar or Genoa had been at birth.  The cord was kind of short, so I didn’t start trying to nurse her until after it stopped pulsing and the midwives cut it.  The midwives started cleaning up while Aaron and I cuddled with our new little girl and called my mom’s cell phone.  They were just finishing up their picnic at the park and we told Cedar that he had a new baby sister.  He was very excited (and apparently was telling a bunch of people at the park!) and they started heading home.  While we waited for them to get back, I nursed the baby and she took right to it.

It was so sweet introducing the kids to their new sister.  Cedar was ecstatic, but Genoa was a little apprehensive of the new situation.  After the kids had been with us for a little bit, my mom took them out of the room and the midwives prepared an herb bath for the baby and I.  They ended up putting it in the birthing pool since it was so much bigger than our bathtub and Aaron held the baby while I transferred over to the tub.  Once all the bloody sheets and Chux pads were cleaned up, my mom brought the kids back in and they watched the baby and I in the herb bath.  I had never had one of those immediately post-birth and it was amazing.

After that, I got dressed in clean clothes and ate something while Debi did the newborn exam.  The new little one was eight pounds exactly and 21 inches long.  We dressed her and the kids and my mom were able to hold her.  The midwives finished cleaning everything up and headed out.

Since we didn’t find out the gender beforehand, Aaron and I had come up with both boy and girl names early on in the pregnancy, but the girl one had undergone several changes over the months.  Aaron’s favourite was Avila Constance, and while I liked that name, I preferred another one that had been in the running.  However, after all the excitement had died and Aaron and I were discussing it, I realized that Avila Constance just fit.  While I knew it as a city in Spain, there is also an Avila Beach in California and that seemed fitting in reference to C.S. Lewis quote that had been so meaningful the last days of her pregnancy.  Constance was the middle name that we had already chosen in combination with Avila, but that too   ended up being a reminder of God’s constant faithfulness in His timing.  We always have chosen our kids’ names for how they sound, and not for any specific meaning, but it ended up working out that Avila’s name had a lot of meaning after the fact.  Our little reminder that God’s plans (and specifically His timing), really are better than ours!

When you’re about to burst

For all of March, we’re talking about books over at Kindred Grace, and on Monday my review of Rachel Jankovic’s new book Fit to Burst: Abundance, Mayhem, and the Joys of Motherhood went up.  Rachel’s first book, Loving the Little Years, was a huge encouragement to me, and Fit to Burst is a continuation of that.

She got it. She knew the hard parts of being surrounded by littles always demanding your attention, but she also embraced the humor in those times as well. She knew how draining the constancy of mothering tinies can be, but she also fully recognized that amazing joy it brings as well.

And the best part: Canon Press, who published Fit to Burst and provided me with a review copy, also included a copy to give away!  So if you’re a mama in need of some encouragement, head over to Kindred Grace and enter the giveaway (open until March 18th).

Grace for others

A week ago, we had an exciting announcement at my other writing place on the web…Young Ladies Christian Fellowship has a new name, one that speaks of what we hope our posts have and will continue to communicate.  Kindred Grace.  Our “About” page sums the new site up well:

“Kindred Grace is a community of women who are dedicated to fellowship through words, in order to glorify God and encourage each other. Our desire is to provide a grace-filled space for conversations between sisters in Christ.”

I’m writing over at Kindred Grace today about something that I think greatly saddens the heart of God.

“It’s a scenario I’ve witnessed too many times.

Christian A does something that Christian B doesn’t agree with. What Christian A did wasn’t sinful, but it’s something that Christian B has been convicted differently about. Christian B confronts Christian A about “being in sin” and things go downhill from there. Best case scenario: they agree to disagree, but there is still an underlying tension. However, all too often, there will be hard feelings and the relationship ends up disintegrating.”

Read more of “What is that to you?”.


Essential oils winner and related news

I meant to get this post up on Saturday after I “drew” the winner, but the weekend got away from me and yesterday was crazy busy…so now I’m finally getting around to it!  But first off, thank you so much to everyone who participated in the Beeyoutiful essential oils giveaway, it was definitely the most responses I’ve ever had to a giveaway so that was fun.  But, the winner…according to…is comment #9: Hannah Grace Estes.  I hope you enjoy your oils, Hannah — they’re all great ones to have on hand!

For the rest of you, make sure you look at Beeyoutiful’s essential oils again!  Many of their oils are discounted right now, so it’s  great time to start your collection or add some of the more expensive oils that you’ve been waiting on buying.

And one more thing on essential oils…today I came across this recipe for creating your own Thieves Blend.  If you don’t know about the Legend of the Four Thieves and the related Thieves Blend of oils, definitely read it for that bit of history, but if you can, try making some to have on hand for cleaning, etc., especially during the coming winter.  I know that I’m going to try making up some of this blend for our family since I actually have all of the oils for it, except for lemon eucalyptus, but I’m going to just use plain eucalyptus instead.  And speaking of eucalyptus, while you may have heard it recommended to take Thieves internally help fight sickness, etc., I really would not recommend it as eucalyptus oil is very toxic when taken internally, even in small amounts.

Simple Essential Oils – Part Five: A giveaway!

(January 2015 edit: along with this series, please make sure to read my follow-up post with more info about essential oil suppliers and practices.)

This post will bring the series to a close, and I hope it was helpful to those of you wanting to learn more about essential oils.  It was fun to write and I learned a lot in doing so.  And while I am by no means an expert on essential oils, if you have questions about anything I wrote about, please ask — you can contact me here or leave a comment.  I can’t guarantee I’ll have the answer as I’m still learning myself, but I might be able to point you in the direction of information that has been helpful to me as I pursue learning more about this amazing gift of natural medicine the Lord has given us.

If you missed any of the previous posts in the Simple Essential Oils series, they are:

One final note before we get to the exciting giveaway: I realize that this series probably came across as very pro-Beeyoutiful.  It was meant to be as I think Beeyoutiful is a great company that provides quality natural health products for an affordable price.  They’re a small company and therefore not as well-known as other natural health companies so I wanted to get the word out about them.  However, it really bothers me when people say stuff along the lines of “This company is the only one with quality products…you must buy from them if you want the real thing!”.  So please know: as much I appreciate and trust Beeyoutiful, I don’t think they are the only company out there with quality essential oils.  If you already have an essential oil supplier that you trust and that you can get affordable essential oils from…good for you!  By all means, stay with them if that’s what works for you.  For me, I’ve had only good experiences with Beeyoutiful through the many orders I’ve placed and the numerous interactions I’ve had with them…and so I want others to know about them as well.

My good experience with Beeyoutiful only continued when I approached them about sponsoring a giveaway to go along with this series.  They were very enthusiastic about it and more than generous.  They offered to give away one of their Beginner Basics Essential Oil Packs.  This pack contains FIVE different essential oils: eucalyptus, lavender, lemon, orange and tea tree.  I have all of those essential oils, and if you read my post about the different ways I use oils, you know that some of these are my favourites and they are all very versatile.

Beginner Basics Essential Oil Pack

Entering the giveaway for this Beginner Basic Essential Oil Pack is simple.  Visit Beeyoutiful and check out their selection of essential oils.  Come back here and comment, telling me which essential oil you’re most interested in and why.  For an extra entry, share about this giveaway through some kind of social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.) and then comment telling me you did so (but remember, you must leave a separate comment in order for it to count as an extra entry!).  And I’m sorry to any international readers, but due to shipping costs, this giveaway is only open to those residing in the US.  The giveaway closes at midnight EST, Friday, December 7th.

This giveaway is now closed.

Simple Essential Oils – Part Four: My growing stash

My growing stash

(January 2015 edit: along with this series, please make sure to read my follow-up post with more info about essential oil suppliers and practices.)

Alright…now that we have all the pre-information out of the way, this is the part everyone always asks about.  What essential oils do you have and how do you use them?  However, before we get into that fun stuff, there’s one more disclaimer. Please remember: I am not a licensed health professional and anything I say is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease.  I am just a mama sharing what has worked for her.  As with anything, please do your own research.

Lavender: This is definitely one of my most-used essential oils — very versatile and it doesn’t hurt that it smells lovely too!  Lavender is one of the few oils that I occasionally apply “neat” (undiluted) as the situation warrants, but in general it is still a good idea to dilute it with a carrier oil, such as sweet almond oil (my favourite) or jojoba oil, especially when applying to children.  And speaking of applying to children, lavender is one of the few essential oils that can be used on babies from birth (though obviously highly diluted!) and is generally safe for use during pregnancy.  Some of my favourite uses for lavender are:

  • Applying a drop to bug bites to take away the itching and diminish the redness.
  • Diluted in a carrier oil, I have sometimes found headache relief from massaging lavender oil along my hairline, into my temples and in front of and behind my ears.
  • Lavender is one the oils I use in my germ-killing all-purpose cleaner.
  • I’ve found that burns heal much faster and with less pain when lavender oil is applied as soon as you’re finished using cold water to take the heat completely from the skin.
  • Lavender is one of the two oils I added to my homemade clay and herbs diaper cream.

Frankincense: Along with lavender, frankincense is probably one of my favourite essential oils.  It’s one of the more expensive oils, so I didn’t add it to my collection right away, but I was so excited when I finally did.  It is distilled from resin and as such the scent reminds me of being outdoors in the forest…mmm!  Frankincense is one of the few essential oils that I feel comfortable using while pregnant, for which I’m thankful.

  • I’ve also found headache relief from using frankincense in the same way as lavender, or sometimes I even mix the two.  Dilute and massage along the hairline, temples and in front of and behind the ears.
  • The combination of frankincense and lavender is also very nice when mixed with Epsom salts and added to a warm bath.  Helps take away general aches and pains and is incredibly relaxing.
  • Frankincense is excellent for skin care so I usually add some to my homemade lotion bars (recipe hopefully coming soon).
  • Partly because I just love the smell and partly because of its antiseptic qualities, I often add frankincense to my liquid hand soap (a 1:1 ratio of Dr. Bronner’s Baby Mild Castile Soap and water).
  • Frankincense is a great immune-booster so when we’ve been exposed to sickness, or feel something coming on, I’ll dilute it with a carrier oil and rub it on the soles of our feet.

Lemon: This is the only one of my oils that doesn’t live with all the others in my lovely natural remedy cabinet, handmade by my talented husband.  Instead the lemon oil lives in the corner of a cupboard right next to my kitchen sink.  Lemon oil is antibacterial, antimicrobial and antiseptic, so I generally use it for cleaning.  Shockingly enough, it smells exactly like lemon peels, which in my opinion, is pretty much the ultimate clean smell!

  • After cutting up raw meat, I sprinkle several drops of lemon oil onto the cutting board and knife, add a squirt of dish soap, rub the combination all over the germy areas and then let sit in the sink for a couple minutes before rinsing with hot water.  I also use this method for disinfecting the kitchen sink, or any other gross kitchen task that I want a little extra natural germ-killing power for.
  • I also use the lemon oil/dish soap combo for cleaning my hands after touching raw meat, etc., but just make sure to put the dish soap on your skin before the lemon oil as the oil is very concentrated and can easily irritate skin if used undiluted.
  • Lemon is one of the oils I use in my germ-killing all-purpose cleaner.
  • I’ve found that smearing some coconut oil mixed with a couple drops of lemon oil makes a great gunk remover for those stubborn sticky patches that show up when you try to remove labels from glass jars. Smear, let sit for awhile and oftentimes the gunk will wipe right off.

Orange: Mmm, who doesn’t love the smell of oranges?!  Having such a cheery aroma, and being one of the more inexpensive oils, I’ve gone through several bottles of orange oil.  Another citrus oil that has antiseptic properties, I use it mostly for cleaning.

  • Whenever I mop, I add orange oil to my mop head.  The oil helps to clean and disinfect the floor, and it also acts like a diffuser, making the room smell of freshly-peeled oranges.
  • To add a little antimicrobial boost to the kids’ hand soap, I add orange oil to the 1:1 mixture of Dr. Bronner’s Baby Mild Castile Soap and water (in an old Cleanwell foaming dispenser…homemade antimicrobial foaming hand soap!).

Peppermint: This is another very versatile oil, but I have to admit that I haven’t experimented with it as much as lavender or frankincense since it’s generally not considered safe to use while pregnant and that’s a state I’ve been in a lot in the last several years!  I’ve also heard differing things about using it while nursing due to the strong taste possibly affecting the breastmilk.  However, there are non-pregnant and breastfeeding people in my family so I’ve had a couple chances to use it.

  • Peppermint can be used in the same way as lavender and frankincense for headaches.  Aaron prefers this one over the other two, so when he has a headache, I often will add a couple drops of sweet almond oil to a couple drops of peppermint oil and massage along his hairline, temples and in front of and behind his ears.  Due to the menthol content in peppermint oil, he often has to keep his eyes closed for several minutes after application, but it often seems to help his headaches.
  • I’ve only tried this once so far, but diluting peppermint oil and rubbing over the navel and into the soles of the feet can help to lower a fever if needed. (I generally prefer to let mild to moderate fevers run their course in killing the infection, but sometimes lowering it for a time can be helpful in promoting sleep, etc.)
  • Peppermint is famous for helping digestive issues and while I haven’t had a chance to try this yet, I’ve heard that diluting a drop or two of peppermint oil and rubbing over the stomach can help upset stomachs and the like.

Rosemary: This another oil that isn’t safe to use on pregnant or nursing women, so thus far, my uses of it have mostly  been for cleaning…but for that it works wonderfully!  Rosemary oil is antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal, and according to some of my reading on it, it has even been shown effective against MRSA.  Pretty amazing stuff!

  • Rosemary is one of the oils I use in my germ-killing all-purpse cleaner.
  • The inspiration for the above-mentioned cleaner was from a blog post that included a recipe for homemade natural “Lysol”.  Using a simple combination of lavender essential oil and rosemary essential oil added to water, the post stated that: “This mixture was found, in the French state hospital system, to be as effective as standard hospital sanitizer, but in fact longer lasting, because the oils stay on whatever surfaces they land on longer than the alcohol-based sanitizers.”

Chamomile (Roman): This is the newest addition to my essential oil collection and one I’m very excited about!  Even though Beeyoutiful has the most affordable price on it I’ve seen, chamomile is still an expensive oil so I didn’t think I’d ever be able to add it to my stash.  However, a couple months ago, Beeyoutiful decided that they were going to discontinue it as there just didn’t seem to be enough interest…so they slashed the price in half.  I told Aaron about it and he told me to buy a bottle (yes, my husband spoils me!).  Why did I feel it was worth it to spend so much on a little bottle of oil?  Chamomile essential oil is one of the few oils that can be used from birth and it is especially helpful in calming and soothing little ones (and anyone else who needs it!).

  • I added several drops of this to the kids’ shampoo (diluted Dr. Bronner’s Baby Mild Castile Soap) and wipe wash (for the wipes we use with our cloth diapers).
  • Chamomile is the main fragrance in a linen spray I made to put on my pillow to help with pregnancy insomnia.  I can’t say that it cured the insomnia (there’s a lot of factors involved), but it smells so good that I often wear it as perfume.

Eucalyptus: This is an essential oil that’s so potent it’s not recommended for use by pregnant women, infants and small children…so I have yet to have a chance to use this one much.  However, from all I’ve read about it, it’s still definitely a  good one to have on hand.

  • Diluting a drop or two in a spray bottle of water and spritzing around can be a powerful disinfectant for keeping germs from spreading within a sick room.
  • Steam inhalation of eucalyptus oil can greatly help congestion and earaches. The oil can also be diluted and rubbed on the chest and back to help with chest congestion and some coughs.

Clove: It sounds kind of weird, but I often associate the scent of clove with babies, since baby-related stuff has been the main thing I’ve used it for, though I know there’s many other uses as well.

  • Clove oil is a powerful oral analgesic and so I’ve used very diluted clove oil to help my babies with teething pain.  This is a good recipe for it; just test it on yourself first to be sure it isn’t too strong!
  • When we used to keep the cloth diaper pail in our bedroom, I taped a tissue to the inside of the lid and would regularly put several drops of clove oil on the tissue.  Clove has a strong smell and doesn’t smell “herb-y” like many other essential oils (my husband doesn’t like “herb-y” smelling stuff) so it worked great as a diaper pail deodorizer.

Tea Tree: This is probably one of the most well-known essential oils to the general public…and for good reason as it has a lot of uses!   According to this list, it’s supposedly safe to use during pregnancy, and from what I’ve read, it can also be used with older babies and young children as well (though obviously well-diluted in all those cases).  However, I’ll admit that I have yet to use mine much since my husband has quite an aversion to its very distinctive smell as he supposedly had to put it on his poison oak outbreaks when he was younger.  Tea tree oil is a powerful antifungal so the main reason I bought it was to use in case we ever had to deal with a mold problem, but after reading about it some more recently, I might see if I can break Aaron into the smell again!  Some great uses I’ve read of are:

  • Tea tree oil’s antibacterial properties make it perfect for cleaning cuts, scrapes, burns, etc. (some people have even had success with treating their acne with it), especially since it can be applied to broken skin.
  • Applying tea tree oil to different skin ailments like eczema and psoriasis can be soothing and healing.  It can also do the same for chicken pox and shingles.
  • While I hope I never have to use it this way, I’ve heard great success stories with using tea tree oil to treat head lice.
  • Tea tree oil can be used similarly to eucalyptus in treating colds and respiratory issues.  Rub diluted tea tree oil on the chest and back or add to a steam inhalation treatment.

Oregano: This oil is pretty amazing at stopping many kinds of infections as it is antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiparasitic, and has also been shown effective against MRSA.

  • This is the one oil that I have used internally (or rather Aaron has), in order to try and kill a bad cold when we were traveling and didn’t have any other remedies on hand.  Yes, I know that in my post on using oils safely, I said that I thought oils should only be taken internally in rare cases and when under the supervision of a certified herbalist.  I still do believe that, but this is the one oil that I make exception for in that regard since there has been quite a bit of research done on taking it internally and it is generally believed to be safe as long as it’s not used for prolonged periods of time.  However, it is still not recommended to take even oregano oil internally while pregnant, and I’ve read conflicting information about taking it while nursing.
  • After trying several different remedies, both natural and otherwise, it was finally oregano oil that killed a very stubborn wart that Aaron had.  He said he hated smelling like an Italian kitchen all the time, but I think it was worth it!

Geranium: I originally bought this oil since it was often called for and referenced in the very helpful The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy by Valerie Ann Worwood.  But, as it happened, I haven’t really had a chance to use it yet.  The only time so far has been for part of an oil blend I was trying out to see if it would get rid of some sinus headaches I was dealing with.  The blend did seem to help and the geranium definitely added a lovely fragrance to the mix!

[In the photo of my stash, you’ll noticed some random bottles on the sides of the cupboard: they are Aura Cacia brand Lemongrass and Rose Absolute, and Young Living’s Stress Away blend roll-on.  The Aura Cacia ones were given to me and I won the Young Living one.  I don’t use any of them medicinally or for cleaning, but primarily for their scent.  The Lemongrass and Rose Absolute make lovely additions to linen sprays/perfumes and I enjoy using Stress Away as perfume when I’m not pregnant.]

Coming tomorrow: a giveaway!!

Simple Essential Oils – Part Three: Using safely

(January 2015 edit: along with this series, please make sure to read my follow-up post with more info about essential oil suppliers and practices.)

With any herbal remedy, it’s important to remember that just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it won’t be harmful if used inappropriately. In my mind, this applies especially to essential oils since they are so concentrated. With very few exceptions, essential oils should never be applied undiluted to the skin. Many essential oils can burn the skin if not properly diluted with carrier oils such as sweet almond oil, jojoba oil, or olive oil. This does not mean that the oil isn’t “pure enough” or of good enough quality — it just means that essential oils are very concentrated and should be handled with care.

Many essential oil users differ on whether or not essential oils should be taken internally. Personally, I feel that this should only happen in rare cases, and only under the supervision of a certified aromatherapist or the like. (Note: in the vast majority of cases, the MLM rep who may have sold you your oils is NOT an aromatherapist!) Certain essential oils, like eucalyptus oil, are quite toxic when taken internally, even in very small amounts. As such, it’s important to again remember that essential oils are very potent and using them is not to be done lightly.

The reason I emphasize this, and why I decided to devote an entire (long!) post to using essential oils safely, is because of an alarming trend I’ve seen among some people who decide to start using essential oils. Certain prominent essential oil companies make the claim that their oils are “so pure” that they can be used undiluted on the skin or taken internally. Conveniently enough, supposedly all other oils aren’t “pure enough” so if you’ve had a bad reaction to an essential oil in the past, that’s probably because it was adulterated, etc.

Honestly, that kind of reasoning doesn’t even make logical sense! If these certain brands of essential oils are supposedly so pure and therefore so potent, then wouldn’t that mean that extra care should be taken in using them? But as I mentioned in the post on essential oil brands and quality, these claims of “therapeutic grade”, etc. don’t really mean anything and are mostly just helpful for marketing.

Jessie Hawkins, a well-known natural living professional, wrote a blog post called “the post we’ve always avoided“.  An interesting title, to be sure, and in it she talks of this trend and details more of the problems with it.  I strongly encourage anyone considering using essential oils to read it in its entirety.  Below is a telling quote:

These textbooks and experts [from medical establishments where using aromatherapy and essential oils is the norm], backed by large bodies of scientific evidence are able to best tell us how to use essential oils for safe and effective results. One of the things they tell us is that essential oils – with very, very few exceptions – are not to be used “neat” or undiluted on the skin. They are also not to be taken internally, again with very few exceptions, many of which require direct medical supervision or care. These pioneers of the field that have been studying the chemistry of essential oils for decades are not confused about the quality of a good oil. They’re not talking about adulterated oils or low grade oils. And they’re not recommending “therapeutic-grade” or similarly certified oils – designations that are essentially developed by the marketing departments of popular direct-sales brands here in the States. They’re talking about high quality organic oils that are so potent that they must be diluted before use on the skin and should not be ingested due to their chemical purity.

Along with mindfully using essentials oils in general, it’s especially important to be careful during pregnancy.  Mimicking their herbal counterparts, certain essential oils are emmenagogues, which means they promote menstruation (therefore being an abortifacient if you’re pregnant) and can stimulate uterine contractions– not something you want happening for most of your pregnancy!   Lists as to which oils are unsafe during pregnancy can vary widely, but this one is the most comprehensive that I’ve found.   Yes, it’s very long, but especially with essential oils, I like to err on the side of caution when dealing with such a sensitive time.

While not dealing specifically with essential oils, but more generally with herbs, I’ve found the book The Naturally Healthy Pregnancy by Shonda Parker (a certified herbalist) to be very helpful in determining which essential oils are safe to use while pregnant.

The bottom line: essential oils are very concentrated and therefore, should be used with care and caution. Educate yourself about the oils you’re using and don’t fall victim to propaganda designed to promote a certain brand.

Coming tomorrow: a peek into my essential oil stash and how I use them.

Simple Essential Oils – Part Two: Brands and quality

(January 2015 edit: along with this series, please make sure to read my follow-up post with more info about essential oil suppliers and practices.)

You don’t have to read much about essential oils to discover that there is a bit of controversy over which brands are better quality. Certain brands (namely Young Living and doTerra) claim that their oils are the only pure essential oils available. While I have no doubt that their oils are good quality, I’m always a little skeptical of companies who claim that they are the only source for a particular product.

Skepticism regarding their exclusivity aside, I never really got into Young Living or doTerra oils mostly because of the price…they’re very expensive!  And while Aaron and I feel strongly that buying quality natural products can contribute to lower health costs in the long run, there are obviously budget limits to that and very expensive essential oils don’t fit.

That was the reason that I was so excited a couple years ago when I saw that my favourite natural health company, Beeyoutiful, was going to start carrying essential oils.  I had been buying stuff from Beeyoutiful since the company’s beginning and I trusted their products to be quality and affordable.

But I was curious…I knew Beeyoutiful’s essential oils were of good quality, but why did they say “for aromatherapy use only”, when companies like Young Living called their’s “Therapeutic Grade”?  And how could they sell the oils at such a cheaper price than the other quality essential oils?

So I asked.  In the past, Beeyoutiful had always been very good about answering my product questions and giving me any information that I asked for.   I sent an email to their customer service asking the questions above and a couple others and they got back to me right away.  What followed was a very eye-opening and informative email conversation that only served to heighten my respect for Beeyoutiful as a company.  Since this email conversation, they have put up a great article on their site that details much of what I learned in the emails and more.  I strongly encourage you to read it in its entirety, but below is a quote that details something I found very interesting

There is no such system for essential oils. There is no standards committee. There are no independent certifying agencies. You will see some companies have actually trademarked their terms, “therapeutic grade” or “medicinal grade”. This is marketing on their part, a way of differentiating themselves from the competition and making people feel like the oils they are getting are of the highest quality while others meet lower standards. But there are no standards. There are no grades for essential oils. … [W]hile our oils are used by us and many others for therapies, for medicines, and for aromatherapy, we do not call them “therapeutic grade”, or “medicinal grade”, or “aromatherapy grade” because there is no such thing, except in marketing. We are committed to a straightforward, honest approach to selling our products, and stay away from such gimmicks.

I realize that this post could sound like an advertisement for Beeyoutiful, and while I personally trust and use their products, you shouldn’t just take my word for it.  We each need to research for ourselves what we feel is best to use with our families and try to see past the marketing hype and patented phrases.

Coming tomorrow: learning how to use essential oils safely.

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