Zoloft From Nature: Uplifting Essential Oils #AtoZChallenge

Hi and welcome to the final day in the #AtoZChallenge. Sorry for another weird title. I usually go with Z for “ZZZ” and then write about sleep, but I already covered calming essential oils in my letter X post. Zoloft (sertraline) is an antidepressant, so I thought I’d steal that name for a post on uplifting essential oils. Unlike calming essential oils, I am not under the impression that uplifting oils can replace a legitimate antidepressant prescription. After all, generally speaking, antidepressants should only be prescribed in moderate to severe cases of anxiety or depression. It may therefore be needless to say, but don’t stop your antidepressants without a doctor’s supervision. These oils may help you feel better and are generally safe to use when you’re on medication.

First up is clary sage essential oil. I love love love this oil. It is not generally energizing, but is very uplifting to the mood. Clary sage essential oil is derived from the flowers/buds and leaves of the salvia sclarea plant. It contains 60 to 70 percent linalyl acetate, which gives it its mood-boosting properties.

citrus essential oils like grapefruit, bergamot and lemon are also great for stimulating the mind and improving mood. Like I said when writing about those oils, they can be combined together to create fresh, fruity blends. I mentioned my keylime pie diffuser recipe already, but the possibilities are really endless.

Another oil I came across when doing research for this post, is white fir. This is an oil I haven’t used often yet, but it combines great with citrus oils to add a little woodsy scent to your blends. I also saw spicy essential oils like cinnamon listed.

Lastly, mint essential oils, especially spearmint, are particularly helpful to get you out of a funk. They are energizing and, in combination with citrus oils, are great for boosting your mood.

Ylang Ylang Essential Oil #AtoZChallenge

Hi and welcome to my letter Y post in the #AtoZChallenge. Yay, we’re almost done with the challenge. Today, I will share about one of my favorite essential oils with you: ylang ylang. I never quite understand how to pronounce it, but who cares if it smells good?

Ylang ylang essential oil is derived through steam distillation of the flowers of the Cananga odorata tree. Its common name comes from the repetition of the Tagalog word for “wilderness”, “ilang”. The tree occurs in the tropical rainforests of the Philippines, Indonesia, Comoro and Polynesia.

Ylang ylang is an interesting oil, in that it is distilled somewhat differently from other oils. You may have seen ylang ylang essential oil be referred to as “Extra”, “Complete” or a Roman number I, II or III. The difference lies in the distillation time. Ylang ylang extra is only distilled for a short time. Then the remaining oil is further distilled to create ylang ylang I, II and III. Finally, a completed distillation results in ylang ylang complete. For aromatherapy purposes, ylang ylang extra or complete are preferred. I honestly have no i dea what variety of ylang ylang oil I own.

The aroma of ylang ylang essential oil is exotic, sweet, floral and a bit fruity. The essential oil is thought to help lessen anxiety and depression. It is also said to be an aphrodisiac. Ylang ylang essential oil is thought to help reduce negative emotions such as nervousness, tension and sadness. It also supposedly promotes positive feelings of cheerfulness and optimism. For this reason, it is very useful in promoting sensuality for couples.

When used topically on the skin, ylang ylang essential oil is believed to help regulate the skin’s oil production, thereby reducing excessive dryness or oiliness.

The maximum usage rate in skincare products is 0.8%, because there is a risk of skin sensitization. Also be careful when using ylang ylang essential oil in a diffuser for the first time, as it can cause a headache.

Xanax From Nature: Calming Essential Oils #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to my letter X post in the #AtoZChallenge. Sorry for the weird title, but I had to come up with something starting with X. Xanax (alprazolam) is a benzodiazepine anti-anxiety and sleep medication. Here in the Netherlands, benzodiazepine medications aren’t covered by insurance, at least not when used for sleep or relaxation. In the spirit of finding alternatives to benzos, today I’m sharing what essential oils can do to promote relaxation. Now I don’t say that essential oils are as effective, but in some cases, they might just be, especially since benzos are highly addictive.

The most well-known oil for tranquility is, of course, lavender. Lavender is thought to help relieve anxiety by affecting the limbic region of the brain, the area that involves emotion. You can either use some lavender essential oil in a diffuser blend or enjoy a lavender bath. To do this, combine a few drops of lavender essential oil with a teaspoon or so of the carrier oil of your choice or an unscented bath gel.

Valerian is up next. I don’t own this oil and haven’t talked about it. Valerian is an herb that has been used since ancient times to promote sleep and relaxation. The herb can be used in herbal teas, but there’s also an essential oil derived from it that can be used in a diffuser blend.

Jasmine is also sometimes used in aromatherapy to promote relaxation. It has a beautifully floral scent and, in helping with anxiety, has the advantage that it doesn’t cause sleepiness. Jasmine is usually sold as an absolute and even then can be quite expensive.

Chamomile essential oil, particularly Roman chamomile, is also commonly used for helping reduce anxiety. I do not own this oil, as it is pretty expensive, but would love to in the future. I did at one point use chamomile in herbal tea.

Lastly, frankincense and vetiver essential oil both have calming properties.

There are also oils that have both calming and uplifting properties. For example, I personally didn’t expect patchouli essential oil to help with anxiety, as it is mostly thought of as an uplifting oil. However, of course, oils can do both. I will discuss more uplifting oils later.

Wintergreen Essential Oil #AtoZChallenge

Hi and welcome to my letter W post in the #AtoZChallenge with my theme of aromatherapy. Today, I will be writing on an oil I don’t own, but which has fascinated me for a while: wintergreen.

When I first looked into essential oils, I saw that wintergreen essential oil is commonly sold. However, at the time, I thought it was a hazardous oil because, back then, AromaWeb had it on its list of oils you should avoid. I wondered why then it was being sold.

Indeed, wintergreen’s main component, Methyl Salicylate (which makes up at least 98% of the essential oil), is toxic with as little as four milliliters being potentially deadly. AromaWeb still advises caution when using this oil. The author also advises buying from a reputable supplier, as some vendors market synthetic Methyl salicylate as wintergreen essential oil.

Wintergreen essential oil is derived from the leaves of the Gaultheria procumbens, an evergreen shrub. The leaves are first soaked in warm water and then the oil is extracted through steam distillation. Fresh wintergreen leaves do not contain Methyl salicylate. Rather, the chemical is formed during the process of soaking the leaves.

Wintergreen’s aroma is crisp, fresh, woody and sweet. Wintergreen’s smell is similar to that of mint essential oils. For this reason, many people think that wintergreen belongs to the mint family. It doesn’t.

Like birch oil, wintergreen essential oil is used as a potent pain reliever and anti-inflammatory oil. However, it also has blood thinning properties, so should not be used if you already take blood thinners or have a bleeding disorder. The oil also stimulates the liver, resulting in possible drug interactions. I would advise against using wintergreen essential oil at all if you take any medication. Wintergreen is not safe when you are pregnant or breastfeeding. It also should not be used on children or around pets.

Vetiver Essential Oil #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to my letter V post in the #AtoZChallenge. My theme for this year is aromatherapy and today, I want to discuss the oil I most recently purchased: vetiver essential oil.

Vetiver essential oil is derived through steam distillation of the aromatic roots of the Vetiveria zizanoides plant. The aroma is strong on its own and can be described as woody, earthy, herbaceous, smoky and spicy. Vetiver essential oil has potent emotional balancing properties and is, for this reason, also referred to as the oil of tranquility. It is also sometimes called the fragrance of the soil.

Almost the entire vetiver plant has been used since ancient times. For example, in tropical countries, people used to make coolers from vetiver plants. They were woven together with coir ropes to make grass mats, which were soaked in water and then hung in doorways. That way, the warm air from outdoors would be cooled.

Since the Middle Ages, vetiver essential oil has been used for its scent. Its deep and woody aroma, its low evaporation rate and its sollubility in alcohol make it great for use in perfumes. Opium by Yves Saint Laurent, Miss Dior by Dior and Coco Mademoiselle by Chanel are some well-known perfumes that incorporate vetiver. Vetiver is also used in many if not most men’s fragrances.

Vetiver essential oil can be used on the skin to treat acne, reduce the appearance of scars, help with wound healing and lessen the effects of aging on the skin. Its maximum usage rate in a carrier oil is 15%.

However, it is even more useful in a diffuser blend. It has warming, grounding, balancing and sedative properties. It is also thought to be an aphrodisiac scent.

Vetiver essential oil blends well with many other oils, including sandalwood, patchouli, lavender and clary sage. If you happen to have rose absolute, this is also a great aphrodisiac to be used with vetiver essential oil. Some sources recommend using as many as five drops of vetiver essential oil in your blends of ten drops. However, AromaWeb’s author recommends using the oil sparingly in blends to prevent it overpowering other scents. I agree with that.

Useful Resources for Aromatherapy #AtoZChallenge

Hi and welcome to my letter U post in the #AtoZChallenge on essential oils. I’ve been debating a lot what to cover for this letter, but eventually decided to do a quick post on resources for doing your own aromatherapy.

I use a number of books for my information on aromatherapy. However, the Internet is also rich with resources. First up is AromaWeb. This is one of the most reliable sources on essential oils and aromatherapy online. There are essential oil profiles and there’s information on safety, but there are also recipes for your own aromatherapy products. This site usually comes up first when I search for general essential oil information.

Next is Loving Essential Oils. This is mostly a site full of recipes for diffuser blends and other DIY products with essential oils. I also think they sell aromatherapy supplies. When I search for diffuser blends, this site usually pops up first.

I also like to get my diffuser recipes from One Essential Community. They also offer many different DIY recipes with essential oils.

Last, I want to recommend EOCalc.com. This site has never popped up in Google searches that I did before, but it was recommended in a Facebook natural soap making community. I have so far never used my essential oils in soap and I am not sure this site is useful for melt and pour soap makers like me. However, this site has a wealth of essential oil blends. I just convert the percentages to drops and then use the recipe for my diffuser.

Tea Tree Essential Oil #AtoZChallenge

Hello and welcome to my letter T post in the #AtoZChallenge. Today, I’ll discuss an oil I’ve had for some time, but which I didn’t really know much about: tea tree.

Tea tree oil (also known as melaleuca oil) is an essential oil derived from the tea tree, Melaleuca alternifolia, which is native to southeast Queensland and the northeast coast of New South Wales, Australia. This tree, to be clear, is different from Camellia sinensis, the shrub that tea leaves come from.

The common name of “tea tree” is thought to have originated with Captain James Cook, who used to make an infusion with it that he used to drink in place of tea. Commercial use of the oil started in the 1920s with Arthur Penfold, an Australian chemist, seeing its potential as an antiseptic.

Tea tree essential oil has a thin consistency and a clear to pale yellow color. Its aroma is fresh yet camphoraceous. Most people don’t like the scent at first, but are able to develop a tolerance or even liking for the oil’s smell eventually.

In aromatherapy, tea tree essential oil has a wide range of uses. For example, when used topically on the skin, it is thought to help with acne and skin infections, as well as nail fungus. A small study found that indeed, tea tree oil is superior to placebo when treating acne. It can also be used in hair products to combat dandruff and is claimed to treat head lice in children. This, however, is not supported by evidence and is not recommended, as neither its safety nor efficacy are known.

Some authors say that you can safely use tea tree oil undiluted on the skin. However, I think you should always dilute essential oils into a carrier oil when using them on the skin. Indeed, on AromaWeb’s profile, the authors recommend a maximum usage rate of 15%. This does show to me that the oil is significantly more skin-safe than other oils.

That being said, tea tree oil is toxic when ingested. The list of possible effects of poisoning is long and serious. You should not use essential oils internally anyway, but especially not tea tree oil. Do not use it in or near the mouth, ever! Tea tree oil is also poisonous to dogs and cats, even when used externally at high doses. Keep your essential oils away from children and pets.

Spicy Essential Oils #AtoZChallenge

Hi and welcome to my letter S post in the #AtoZChallenge. Today, I’ll be discussing spicy essential oils like cinnamon, cardamom, etc. I really love these oils. In fact, I especially wanted to buy cardamom essential oil. Too bad it’s relatively expensive, but I eventually got it.

First off, let me discuss cinnamon. Cinnamon essential oil is steam distilled from either the bark or the leaves of the cinnamon plant. Cinnamon bark essential oil is usually preferred, but it is also much more expensive than cinnamon leaf oil. Cinnamon bark oil’s aroma is much richer than that of ground cinnamon. It can be described as peppery, earthy, spicy, bright yet slightly woodsy. The oil blends well with many different essential oils, including citrus and mint oils, as well as other spicy essential oils. Cinnamon essential oil should be used with extreme caution when you want to apply it to the skin.

Another plant in the cinnamon family of which essential oil is distilled, is cassia. This oil is very similar to true cinnamon but more affordable. I don’t own this oil as far as I know, though now that I think of it, my “cinnamon” essential oil might actually be cassia.

Another of my favorite spicy essential oils, is cardamom. This oil is steam distilled from the seeds of the Elettaria cardamomum plant. The scent is spicy, woodsy, rich and sweet.

Lastly, I want to discuss clove essential oil. When an oil is simply referred to as “clove”, it is most likely steam distilled from the flower buds of the clove plant. However, clove leaf and stem essential oil are also available.

Clove bud essential oil is very strong, so always be cautious when using it. For example, the maximum usage rate in skincare products is 0.5% (about one drop in 200ml of carrier oil). Even when diffusing clove bud essential oil, use it sparingly in blends.

Clove bud essential oil has a strong, warm and spicy aroma. It is well-known for its pain-relieving properties. Some people will use a drop of clove essential oil on a painful tooth. However, I don’t recommend using any essential oil internally. Rather, use an actual clove bud instead.

Do you like spicy scents?

Rosemary Essential Oil #AtoZChallenge

Hi and welcome to the letter R post in my #AtoZChallenge series on aromatherapy. Today, I will talk about one of the first essential oils I purchased: rosemary.

The name “rosemary” is derived from the latin term for “dew of the sea”, because it is native to the sea cliffs of the Mediterranean. The highest quality essential oil is derived through steam distillation from the flowering tops of the plant Salvia rosmarinus. This plant used to be known as Rosmarinus officinalis and you may still see this used by essential oil companies.

Rosemary belongs to a larger family of herbs that includes lavender, mint, myrtle and sage.

The scent of rosemary is fresh, herbaceous and sweet. AromaWeb reports that it smells “slightly medicinal” and I agree.

Rosemary was considered sacred by people in many ancient cultures. It was used in incense, for protection and as a reminder of the life-and-death cycle. It may also have been used to improve memory, which isn’t so far off. After all, at a 2017 conference on aromatherapy, rosemary was actually reported to help with cognitive function.

In the Middle Ages, rosemary was thought to ward off evil spirits and keep the bubonic plague from spreading. For this reason, rosemary branches were commonly spread across floors and doorways to keep the disease from spreading. In addition, rosemary was often tossed in graves to symbolize the fact that loved ones who had died, wouldn’t be forgotten.

Sixteenth-century German-Swiss physician and botanist Paracelsus recommended rosemary as a herbal treatment for all kinds of conditions.

Currently, rosemary essential oil is used in aromatherapy to relieve stress and nervous tension, to boost mental activity and to support clarity and insight. It is used to improve alertness, reduce negative moods and improve the retention of information by increasing concentration. It can also be used to combat fatigue and to promote a healthy respiratory system.

When applied topically to the skin, rosemary essential oil can reduce pain, soothe inflammation and boost the immune system. It can also be used to promote hair growth and help your hair look and feel healthy. You can also use rosemary essential oil in a massage to promote healthy digestion and relieve bloating, flatulence and constipation.

Rosemary essential oil blends well with other herbal essential oils such as lavender, clary sage, peppermint and spearmint. It can also be used in blends with citrus essential oils.

Have you ever used rosemary? If so, do you like it?

Quality of Essential Oils: Does It Matter? #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to my letter Q post in the #AtoZChallenge. Today, I will be talking about quality of essential oils. Does it really matter whether you buy a cheap drugstore brand of essential oil or an expensive brand? Do you need to get all-natural, organic essential oils or are synthetic or non-organically grown plant essences just as good?

The answer, in general, depends on what you want to do with your oils. I mean, if all you want is a nice smell, does it really matter whether your oil is natural or not? I don’t think so, unless you intend on blending your oils. In that case, after all, you’ll really need to know a lot about perfumery. For example, I have tried blending coconut and vanilla fragrance oils and that didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped for, despite the fact that the scents seemed to go well together.

If you want to use your oils for their actual therapeutic properties, though, I do recommend you get all-natural oils. Even then, it matters where the oil came from geographically, how the conditions under which it was grown were, what extraction method was used, etc. For example, cold pressing is generally the best extraction method, but this isn’t possible with most oils. Steam distillation is, therefore, second best.

Many lower-quality essential oils have been adulterated in one or more of several ways. For example, thyme essential oil’s constituents may vary from 100% thymol to 90% carvacrol, with some varieties containing citrol or geraniol. Secondly, rose essential oil, for example, is often diluted with geranium.

An essential oil’s constituents can be analyzed using gas chromatography and mass spectometry. These are not methods the average consumer would be able to employ themself, so they must rely on the supplier to have done this analysis. I for one, so far never got these analysis reports. I’m not even 100% sure the vendors I normally buy from, offer them. I, indeed, had to look to a supplier I wasn’t before familiar with to see a random oil’s report to see what it looks like. Guess I’m learning something now that I do this challenge myself.