I started researching and using essential oils for my 8-year old’s allergies over the past winter. I found that there are a great number of them, and they can be used in a variety of ways. Forget fragrances that are potential carcinogens, essential oils are where it’s at!
What is an essential oil?
Essential oils are derived from plants, typically in a steam or water distillation process. The oil that results is highly concentrated, and contains not only the fragrance, but also the properties of the plant itself. This makes essential oils of great use for healing. Many cosmetics and even prescriptions are modeled after essential oils, but typically use synthetic versions of them. Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils as therapy. Each essential oil has different uses.
What is a carrier oil?
Because essential oils are so highly concentrated, diluting them is necessary. A carrier oil can be a lotion, oils such as coconut or olive oil, a balm or anything that you can use to dilute the essential oils. My favorites are lotion, coconut and olive oils, and Beauty Counter’s Cleansing Balm! Typically, only a few drops of an essential oil are used in a teaspoon to tablespoon of a carrier oil.
MOST USEFUL ESSENTIAL OILS AND THEIR USES
Lavender has long been touted as an antibacterial agent. The plant produces its’ oil to protect itself from attack. Lavender oil is most known for its calming properties, and is good for those with anxiety or in need of relaxation . This essential oil works great diffused* at night or as needed, while it also does wonders diluted in a carrier oil (I love BC’s cleansing balm) for diaper rash and bug bites! It quickly calms the skin.
Warning: Repeated topical use of lavender and tea tree essential oils has been questioned in boys, after several boys were found to have prepubertal gynecomastia, that is, enlarged breast tissue. (Source)
The Peppermint essential oil also has a calming effect on the body, and can even be used for headaches and sore muscles. Common for upset stomach and nausea, peppermint is best known for treating digestive issues, including IBS. (Source) Peppermint oil has also been found to stimulate hair growth in research studies. (Source). While lavender oil is considered child safe, peppermint oil should be reserved for those ages six and up.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is widely known for its healing properties, and is commonly used in skin care products. Tea tree oil can be used to treat ezcema, acne and dandruff, among other conditions. It is a great healing oil for wounds, and can be used as an antibacterial for a household cleaner.
Lemon essential oil smells wonderful in homemade cleaning solution, and it is a powerful immune system and mood booster . Lemon has been found in studies to protect the liver from damage due to aspirin consumption. It is also great for digestion, just as the lemon water in the morning does wonders, and for bad breath. For the cleaning solution, you can mix 20 drops of lemon and 10 drops tea tree oil to a spray bottle with water for countertops, floors, and bathrooms! Lemon, along with eucalyptus (next) are also helpful in fighting a cold, as well as allergies.
Eucalyptus oil is great for the immune and respiratory system! If you come down with a cold or stuffy nose, diffuse eucalyptus oil or use it diluted on your temples or neck. We also used eucalyptus oil in a diffuser throughout the entire allergy season to keep everything draining and flowing. In studies, eucalyptus oil boosted the immune system in animals. (Source)
Note: Eucalptus oil is another one best used on children 10 years of age and older.
How to Choose an Essential Oil
Plants, just like everything else these days, can be treated with pesticides and insecticides so it is important to avoid these in a product. Look for 100% pure essential oils, and they should also be organic to avoid harmful carcinogens.
Which essential oils do you use and what do you use them for?