(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!!