Essential oils, the concentrated plant extracts used in aromatherapy, are an increasingly popular form of alternative medicine that are easily accessible, simple to use, and inexpensive. “Essential oils are so versatile, and therefore, incredibly simple to integrate into your routines and elevate moments throughout your day,” explains Sara Panton, co-founder of Vitruvi. “Scent is such a powerful, yet understated, way to influence our mood." Different essential oils have different effects, with some making us feel more energetic, calm, or focused—research has even proven that certain aromas can influence different parts of the brain.
Essential oils can be used in a variety of ways, including in a scented diffuser, applied directly to the skin, consumed internally, or added to bathwater. However, before you do anything, make sure to do a little research, suggests Michelle Ornstein, certified aromatherapist, natural skin care formulator, and president of Enessa Organic Skin Care. For example, some oils may irritate your skin, or they may counteract with other oils or even with the sun. If you do apply them to your skin, you may want to think about mixing them with a carrier oil—at least the first few times, to make sure you don’t have a sensitivity to them.
If you do apply essential oils to your skin, mix them with a carrier oil, like coconut oil, at least the first few times you apply to make sure you don’t have a sensitivity.
Panton is a huge fan of using a scent diffuser, which she points out will regularly help you establish rituals and patterns that can signal the brain that it’s time to wake up, sleep, focus, relax, etc. For example, diffusing lavender essential oil an hour before going to sleep fills your bedroom with a relaxing, grounding aroma, and the consistency every evening helps cue your brain that it’s time for bed.
When purchasing essential oils, always make sure to buy the purest oils possible. “Stay away from any essential oils that have been pre-mixed with carrier oils,” suggests Cristin Smith, founder and director of Saffron & Sage, a holistic health club based in San Diego. Also, like anything else you put in or on your body, you want 100% pure, natural ingredients. “Look for pure or organic certifications,” she adds.
We asked the experts for a comprehensive list of all the essential oils you should keep in your bathroom, and here is what they suggested:
The little purple flower not only smells amazing, it is very soothing and also has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. “It’s great for cuts, bug bites, and skin irritations,” suggests Ornstein, who uses it in many of her skincare products. It can be applied directly or diluted with a carrier oil. Panton also suggests adding lavender oil to your diffuser and inhaling it before bed.
Bergamot is a comforting essential oil that’s perfect for unwinding after a long day. “It’s great in the bathroom because you can use it as a face serum, add it to a bath or even create a sophisticated towel spay,” offers Panton.
Sipping on a cup of chamomile tea is incredibly relaxing, but did you know that you can reap similar benefits by inhaling it? Ornstein recommends it for its soothing qualities, which include improving insomnia and anxiety, as well as PMS symptoms. It can also help with skin problems such as eczema. She adds that you should dilute it with a carrier oil.
Smith maintains that clary sage essential oil is a must-have for every woman due to its ability to balance hormones during monthly menstrual cycles. Apply to your lower abdomen, wrists, or the bones behind ears and ankles. “This oil aids us in times of feminine transition and helps bring balance both emotionally and physically,” Smith says.
Ornstein calls tea tree the “swiss army knife” of essential oils, as it has many uses, particularly as an antimicrobial. It accelerates wound healing and can be used on scrapes, minor burns, bites, acne, or skin irritations.
This beautiful-smelling option is known as a balancing oil, according to Ornstein, due to its ability to promote healthy sebum production, a great anti-aging enhancer. Make sure to dilute with a carrier oil.
Frankincense essential oil has stress-relieving and mood-enhancing benefits. “It can even help relieve pain,” Ornstein says.
Oregano is a must-have essential oil. Smith recommends it for its ability to fight fungal infections and reduce inflammation.
There are so many ways to utilize eucalyptus oil, which is a must-have during cold and flu season. “Boil water and add a few drops in, put a towel over your head and the bowl and breathe,” she suggests as a method to help with congestion. Panton’s favorite way to use the leafy oil is in the shower. “Just add three drops of eucalyptus to the palms of your hands,” she says. “When you rub them together, hold your palms up to your face and breathe deeply—the heat from the water/steam will help release the aroma and intensify it. It’s like a mini spa moment you can enjoy every morning, no matter where you are.”
Sipping on ginger tea is invigorating, but the spicy root can also help relieve aching muscles. Research has found that massage with ginger essential oil is more effective at treating pain than unscented oil. Ornstein reminds readers that it's important to dilute ginger oil with a carrier oil.
Grapefruit oil is rejuvenating and can help fight fatigue. This essential oil is often used in skincare and Panton recommends adding 2 drops of grapefruit into your moisturizer in the AM for an added glow.
This warm, woodsy essential oil can make any room smell like a cedar sauna, but it also has medicinal properties, says Panton. Cedarwood can be used as a scalp treatment due to its antifungal and properties. “It’s also great for a cedar sauna shower, similar to how you’d use eucalyptus.”
It’s not very surprising that peppermint has a ton of great uses for the bathroom. “With just a couple drops, you can turn it into a natural mouthwash, shampoo stimulator, and a daily shower spray,” explains Panton.
This sweet, earthy essential oil has a soothing, spa-like effect. Panton recommends it for people who are struggling with an itchy and irritated scalp; research has shown it can improve symptoms of dandruff. Panton encourages people with these conditions to "massage a few drops of lemongrass oil into your scalp for two minutes and then rinse." It also creates an amazing foot bath. Just add ten drops of lemongrass to warm water. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, it can relieve muscle pain in your feet, in addition to having antibacterial and antifungal effects.
This citrusy, fresh, energizing essential oil creates a care-free, happy vibe. Panton claims you can even create a natural toothpaste by mixing three drops lemon essential oil with one tablespoon of baking soda and one tablespoon of coconut oil. “Brush for two minutes and then rinse!” she says.
This feminine essential oil will create a floral oasis in any space. “Add five drops Ylang Ylang to a warm bath to help you relax and wind down before bed,” Panton says.
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