I was organizing my bathroom the other day and realized I have quite the essential oil collection going! Some of these bottles even have their own story, like the lavender oil with the purple lid that I bought at a market in Dubrovnik, Croatia, last summer. Here’s an overview of what I’ve got in my drawer and a bit of background on essential oils.
What makes an oil “essential”?
Plant oils are characterized either as carrier or essential oils. Essential oils are produced through distillation, while carrier oils, like olive, sesame or coconut, are expressed or extracted with the use of chemical solvents. (This is why it’s important to get cold pressed oils; oils extracted with the use of solvents can contain trace amounts of the chemical solvents.)
What does one do with essential oil?
Essential oils all have different benefits but are generally used for aromatherapy- you sniff it, and it makes you feel good! You can also consume therapeutic grade oils, but most oils you can get at the grocery store are for external use only. I have a few oils I’ll talk about below that I do use internally, but usually I just use them to make room sprays, oil blends, and balms… Also important: remember to dilute them because EOs are very concentrated and can irritate the skin. Some also are not safe to use when you’re pregnant, so do your research!
Right, let’s get down to it!
Starting at the top, I have Whole Foods brand Tea Tree Oil. Tea Tree Oil is a very strong antibacterial and antifungal oil, so it’s great for treating acne. I just take a drop or two on my finger and apply straight to any blemishes. It smells like paint thinner to me though, so I definitely don’t use it for its aromatherapeutic benefits.
Next to that is Wyndmere Rose Oil in Jojoba (a carrier oil). Rose essential oil is especially valuable as extraction takes a lot of flowers for small amounts of oil. So, it’s diluted with jojoba oil so the grocery store can sell it for a price similar to other oils. It’s a very soothing and moisturizing oil and great to use on the face as well. I used this one as a perfume oil straight out of the bottle, and also mix some with a bit of aloe vera gel before adding rose water for a toner.
I have two DoTerra oils (the ones with the orange labels), and these are the only therapeutic grade oils that I have and take internally. They’re really expensive, so as much as I’ve enjoyed these, I probably won’t be purchasing any more from this company. I’m also wary of multi-level marketing schemes. We had a sales rep come into a yoga class once to talk about these oils, and it felt like I was being recruited to a cult.
The pretty bottle with the gold cap in the center is actually not an essential oil, but a perfume blend from a company called A Perfume Organic. I think the scent is called Urban Citrus? Not sure, but in any case the scent is lovely. I’ve got quite a few other organic, oil-based perfumes as well now, and even though they don’t have much staying power, I love them. They generally come in nifty, tiny little bottles so I just stick them in my bag and reapply throughout the day. I always like to run some through my hair as well. Makes me feel quite fancy and such.
Peppermint oil is the littler bottle with the green label- a good stand-by if you DIY anything, from lip balm to body scrubs to bath salts. Combines really well with vanilla as far as fragrance. Another fun use for it is mouse-deterrent. Time for a little detour!
It’s well-known that the housing stock in Washington, DC, is in a pretty advanced state of deterioration. I have been fortunate enough to be able to verify this myself, and it’s absolutely true. People, I had never seen cockroaches before. They are HUGE, and really terrifying when you’re half asleep and walk downstairs and turn on the lights to go get a glass of water. Makes you not thirsty real fast. Susuwatari??? Not nearly as cute as My Neighbor Totoro.
So, amongst these urban-dwelling critters were mice, and one of our many attempts to thwart them was to boil water with many drops of peppermint oil in it. It makes your nose sting and in combination with those noise-deterrents, it actually seemed pretty effective (and also not cruel like traps). My roommate told our hairdresser the story, and every time I saw him after, he’d ask how the mice are doing.
So that’s peppermint oil. Alright, in an attempt to not prattle on endlessly, the rest of the oils are: clary sage, ylang ylang, neroli, geranium, rosemary, frankincense, and lavender. Mostly from Aura Cacia, available online; frankincense from my local apothecary- Rebecca’s. Each, very (?) briefly:
Clary sage- Wonderful for dry skin and supposedly helps with women’s uhhh… troubles. You are supposed to massage on your belly (in a carrier oil) when you have cramps. I don’t think it did a whole lot with this, but it’s a nice earthy smell, so I include it in some of my body oil DIYs.
Ylang ylang- Just out of this world scent. Woody, sexy, amber-y, yet floral. I love to add a few drops of this into my bath water. Yum.
Geranium- Another nice, basic floral go-to for bath salts, body scrubs, and body oils. Quite a fresh smell, but works morning and night.
Lavender is soothing. Works well for products you’ll use at night. Also a strong antibacterial, so a few drops of this into some argan, jojoba, and/or rosehip oil would make a great serum for blemish-prone skin.
Rosemary- Stimulating, warming, especially great for the hair. I add a few drops to any hair oils or hair rinses that I make. (A good, simple hair rinse is some nettle infusion with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, some aloe vera gel, and a few drops of rosemary oil.)
Neroli- One of my all-time favorite scents- up there with ylang ylang. This one is sweet and floral, but not in a fruity, gross way. Neroli is orange blossom, and citrus scents are very uplifting, proven to be effective when you are feeling sad or depressed. (Mostly it just smells really, really awesome.)
Frankincense! Used historically for religious rituals, I love using this with myrrh in my DIY facial toner. The piney loveliness always brings me into the present. This oil supposedly helps to boost elasticity.
Phew! Happy Mother’s Day!