Summer Greetings To All! Summer has arrived on a soggy note here in coastal Maine. We've had the 6th wettest June on record and quite a few cool evenings, but my garden is apparently delighting in this weather - growing like gangbusters with nary a potato or cucumber or squash beetle or slug in sight! My soil is superb - mineral-rich and light and fluffy with plenty of residual ash blended in from burning lawn clippings and leaves in the garden last winter and spring.
On a personal note, I'm going through a bit of a difficult, life-changing situation right now and came across this quote that I found comforting and I thought some of you might benefit from it, too: Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass. It's about learning how to dance in the rain . . . - Vivian Greene
Today, I will continue with Part 3 of our discussion of my favorite essential oils for promoting health and use in the home. You can find more information about essential oils (and recipes in which to use them) in my Organic Body Care Recipes book and my Hands-On Healing Remedies book - both good resources for using herbs and essential oils for skin and body care plus topically-applied herbal medicine.
I'm going to be imparting information about 3 popular essential oils: lavender, tea tree, and lemon. These are widely available and usually reasonably priced.
1. Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) - A member of the mint family with a strong, pungent, floral taste and slightly cooling / neutral energy. It is said to have over 150 medicinal uses which have all been tested and is good for almost any imbalance. If you are tired and stressed out, it will relax you. If you are depressed, it will uplift you. If you are angry and hypertensive, it will calm you down. A most gentle oil with a soft, floral familiar herbal scent. Known for its calming, relaxing and soothing effects, lavender is said to balance the central nervous system and is extremely useful for children due to it's myriad healing properties, pleasant aroma, as well as being so incredibly mild on the skin and respiratory system - yet powerful enough to be an effective medicinal.
Lavender is considered the most universally useful oil, it is excellent for all skin types. A must for every first aid kit, it can be used for burns, sunburns, stings, muscular aches, cuts, blemishes, bruises, headaches, insect bites, colds, flu, stress & menstrual cramps. It can be inhaled directly from the bottle or applied "neat" or undiluted onto the skin. In France, lavender is used as a base oil or carrier oil for other essential oils to be diluted into. If you'd like to make a standard 2% dilution of lavender essential oil (recommended for very sensitive folks, the elderly, and children under 6), simply blend 12-15 drops of essential oil in 1 ounce of 2 tablespoons of base oil such as almond, hazelnut, coconut, jojoba, or olive - or whatever base oil strikes your fancy. Store this blend in a dark, glass bottle and apply as needed.
Lavender's medicinal actions include it being antiseptic, antispasmodic, nervine, carminative, slightly diuretic, analgesic, and sedative. It promote deep restful sleep. One of my favorite ways to use lavender is to get a 4 oz. glass spray bottle and add 40 drops of lavender essential oil to 4 ounces of distilled water. Shake well before each use. I spray my pillow lightly with it each night before bed as well as spraying the air in my bedroom. I'm nodding off to sleep in no time! If you've got hyperactive children or they're irritable and don't want to go to bed, then spray their room and massage a bit of the spray into their feet. They'll significantly calm down within 10 minutes - guaranteed!
2. Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) - Tea tree essential oil has a bitter, pungent, heavy medicinal taste and penetrating, camphorous odor with a cooling, moisturizing energy. It is distilled from the leaves and twigs of a small, shrubby tree native to Australia. It is probably one of the most commonly used medicinal essential oils in the U.S., in part due to a multi-level marketing company that highly promotes its healing properties. Tea tree essential oil is unusual in that it is effective against all three varieties of infectious organisms: viruses, bacteria, and fungi. It is also a powerful immune-stimulant, anti-inflammatory, and vulnerary (tissue healing agent), making it an excellent addition to the home medicine chest. You can apply it "neat" or undiluted directly on burns, abrasions, abscesses, acne or wherever there is sign of infection or fungus. May be safely used in gargles, vaginal douches, sitz baths or externally for ear infections. Child-safe.
I add this essential oil to oil blends, salves, balms, and clay packs to treat cuts and scrapes, all manner of rashes, athlete's foot / nail fungus, and skin, sinus, and respiratory infections. It can be used "neat" as a spot treatment for blemishes, warts, and insect bites and stings.
3. Lemon (Citrus x limon) - this essential oil, like pine and orange, is one of the most common and least expensive. It is cold-pressed from the peel or rind and has a clean, light, sharp, refreshing, familiar citrus aroma and a cooling, drying energy. Commercially, it is a favorite additive to detergents, dish soap, household cleansers, bleach, and many foods. I frequently add a few drops to my vacuum bag, shower scrub cleanser, toilet bowl, and kitchen surface cleaner so that my house smells clean and fresh.
Lemon essential oil may be a potential skin irritant, so do a patch test for 24 hours prior to using it. To do a patch test, add 2-4 drops to a teaspoon of base oil, apply some of the mixture to the back of your knee, inside your elbow, or behind your ear, top with an adhesive bandage and wait 24 hours. If there is no redness or irritation, then you may feel safe to use the oil in moderation - always diluted - never "neat" or undiluted. Avoid lemon oil if pregnant or epileptic and it may be photosensitizing - so avoid use if going out in the sun.
Medicinally, I use lemon essential oil in oil blends for thinning hair and alopecia for its gentle astringency and circulation-stimulating properties. It also acts as a mental stimulant, increasing alertness and clarity, and so I add it to balms and oil blends that lift mental fog and that "stuck-in-the-mud" feeling. It is also a wonderful invigorating antiseptic and can be added to cold and flu and respiratory formulations. By the very tiny drop, it can be applied directly to stubborn warts to aid in removal, but be careful not to get the oil on surrounding skin.
Lemon essential oil is a citrus oil, and like other citrus oils such as lime, orange, bergamot, and grapefruit, it is highly volatile and will lose its potency and aroma within 1 year or less. Please store the bottle in a dark, cool cabinet or refrigerator.
NOTE: This blog was written by Stephanie Tourles, lic. holistic esthetician, herbalist, certified aromatherapist, and author of Organic Body Care Recipes, Hands-On Healing Remedies, and other wellness and nutrition books. The information in this blog is true and complete to the best of her knowledge. All recommendations are made without guarantee on the part of Ms. Tourles. She disclaims any liability in connection with the use of this information. It is for educational purposes only.